They get $190,000 pensions! NJ retirement system hits $11B
The former president of Essex County College may have retired in 2010, but he's still collecting $195,000 courtesy of the state's public pension system.
He's not alone.
State Sen. Nicholas Sacco, a Democrat who also doubles as the mayor of North Bergen, has been collecting a pension of $190,275 since his retirement as assistant superintendent of his township's school districts.
They're among 50 retirees drawing annual pensions of more than $150,000, a New Jersey 101.5 analysis of state records finds. And nearly 3,000 retirees or their beneficiaries at collecting six-figure pensions.
Such generous payouts, which the retirees or their loved ones can expect to get for the rest of their lives, are not the norm.
The average state pension is just $31,600.
But with 340,000 retirees, and growing by 10,000 a year, that comes to $11 billion in benefits this year.
It’s not likely to happen this month, when the battle over the state budget shares center stage with major issues like school funding, sports betting and marijuana legalization. But expect lawmakers to renew attention this summer on making changes to public worker pensions, among other structural reforms.
More of NJ's top pensioners (as of March 2018):
- RICHARDSON, JOHN C
Retired 7/1/17 from RIDGEFIELD PARK BD OF ED
Annual pension: $185,454
- SCHIFFER, MARK
Retired 1/1/11 from PASSAIC CO BD OF SOCIAL SERVICE
Annual pension: $184,713
- DAVENPORT, ROBERT
Retired 8/1/14 from PASSAIC VALLEY SEWERAGE COMM
Annual pension: $181,715
- RUTIGLIANO, JOSEPH T
Retired 5/1/05 from WOOD-RIDGE BOROUGH
Annual pension: $178,262
- POSTORINO, MICHAEL T
Retired 1/1/16 from PATERSON CITY
Annual pension: $177,130
- OGDEN, EVELYN H
Retired 1/1/18 from EAST BRUNSWICK TWP BD OF ED
Annual pension: $175,833
- NIEKRASZ, DREW J
Retired 2/1/18 from BAYONNE CITY
Annual pension: $175,142
- MCGEEHAN, PATRICIA
Retired 7/1/17 from BAYONNE BOARD OF ED
Annual pension: $172,843
- MORTON, J T
Retired 7/1/17 from SPARTA BD OF ED
Annual pension: $171,773
- COLEMAN, KIM B
Retired 7/1/12 from MORRIS-UNION JOINTURE COMM
Annual pension: $169,619
- CRANWELL, MICHAEL
Retired 7/1/12 from NORTH HUDSON REG FIRE & RESCUE
Annual pension: $169,288
- LUCAS, DONALD P
Retired 12/1/17 from BURLINGTON CO BD SPCL SERVICES
Annual pension: $168,627
- MEHLHORN, RONALD J
Retired 1/1/14 from MULTIPLE
Annual pension: $167,282
- ROGERS, GREGORY
Retired 3/1/16 from BAYONNE CITY
Annual pension: $167,118
- SANGER, STANLEY
Retired 3/1/16 from UNION CITY BD OF ED
Annual pension: $167,082
- CONFESSORE, FREDERICK G
Retired 7/1/14 from HARRISON TOWN BD OF ED(HUDSON)
Annual pension: $164,328
- SCIANNI, RALPH
Retired 1/1/17 from BAYONNE CITY
Annual pension: $163,814
- HANSEN, STANLEY
Retired 7/1/14 from EAST HANOVER TOWNSHIP
Annual pension: $163,713
- MAGISTRO STANKIEWICZ, JO ANN
Retired 11/1/16 from EAST BRUNSWICK TWP BD OF ED
Annual pension: $163,194
- COLELLO-HARRINGTON, JOANNE
Retired 7/1/13 from NORTH BERGEN BD OF ED
Annual pension: $162,878
- MULCAHY, ROBERT E
Retired 1/1/16 from RUTGERS UNIVERSITY
Annual pension: $162,399
- LOVALLO, CHARLES
Retired 2/1/09 from ESSEX COUNTY COLLEGE
Annual pension: $161,070
- DREXLER, ARTHUR
Retired 2/1/14 from BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP
Annual pension: $160,191
- DANDORPH, ROBERT
Retired 2/1/17 from NORTH BERGEN BD OF ED
Annual pension: $159,900
- BOLDEN, MARION A
Retired 7/1/13 from NEWARK PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Annual pension: $159,714
- WATSON, BRUCE H
Retired 7/1/08 from FAIR LAWN BD OF ED
Annual pension: $158,174
- DESTENO, COSMO
Retired 8/1/16 from RUTGERS UNIVERSITY
Annual pension: $157,855
- BISTOCCHI, THOMAS J
Retired 12/1/07 from UNION CO VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS
Annual pension: $157,768
- FISCHBACH, PETER J
Retired 1/1/13 from NORTH BERGEN BD OF ED
Annual pension: $156,677
- REARDON, JOHN T
Retired 7/1/07 from WAYNE TOWNSHIP
Annual pension: $156,540
- RODECKER, JOHN M
Retired 1/1/15 from PERTH AMBOY BD OF ED
Annual pension: $156,165
- OKEEFE, ARTHUR R
Retired 7/1/11 from ENGLEWOOD CITY
Annual pension: $155,847
- KUBERT, ROBERT A
Retired 1/1/14 from BAYONNE CITY
Annual pension: $155,530
- MCMORROW, MICHAEL
Retired 6/1/12 from ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS BOROUGH
Annual pension: $155,025
- FERRAINA, JOSEPH M
Retired 10/1/16 from LONG BRANCH BD OF ED
Annual pension: $154,711
- BROOKS, DENNIS J
Retired 7/1/11 from ATLANTIC CITY
Annual pension: $154,490
- RYAN, PETER A
Retired 4/1/15 from JUDICIARY
Annual pension: $153,862
- ZANZALARI, JOSEPH H
Retired 6/1/17 from MIDDLESEX CO VOCATIONAL SCHOOL
Annual pension: $152,428
- LAVIN, JANICE M
Retired 7/1/95 from BERGEN CO BD OF SOC SERV
Annual pension: $152,335
- LAWSON, ROBERT C
Retired 11/1/11 from LAKEWOOD TOWNSHIP
Annual pension: $151,623
- JOGANOW, VIKTOR
Retired 8/1/16 from PASSAIC CO REGIONAL HS DIST 1
Annual pension: $151,425
- ALOIA, ROBERT J
Retired 11/1/14 from BERGEN CO VOCATIONAL SCHOOL
Annual pension: $150,958
- LEWIS, ANTONIO N
Retired 6/1/10 from ASBURY PARK BD OF ED
Annual pension: $150,698
- KAPLAN, RICHARD M
Retired 7/1/17 from NEW BRUNSWICK BD OF ED
Annual pension: $150,695
- NATARAJAN, GEETHA A
Retired 7/1/15 from MIDDLESEX COUNTY
Annual pension: $150,344
- CAREY, STEWART T
Retired 8/1/07 from WESTFIELD TOWN BD OF ED
Annual pension: $150,267
Lawmakers consider changes
This year, public workers and the governments that employ them will put over $6.5 billion into New Jersey’s pension funds, including the state’s largest-ever contribution. But still the unfunded liability is growing, approaching $60 billion as of the most recent valuation last summer.
And so despite four cuts to pension benefits since 2007, the bipartisan Economic and Fiscal Policy Working Group that has been meeting in private for three months is expected to seek more changes.
“We have problems that need to be fixed,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “We addressed them in 2011, somewhat. We need to go even further to fix this. Not to take it out or pick on our workforce at all, but we all need to be in this together because people can’t afford to live in this state anymore.”
Gov. Phil Murphy said any discussion of changes should wait until full contributions are being made, which isn’t for four years. At that point, the state’s contributions would exceed $5.5 billion, not including the lottery profits – and stay at that level through at least the middle of the 21st century.
“I think the more immediate savings are in health benefits. That’s what we want to tackle right now because we think there’s enough evidence that we can get it,” Murphy said. “The answer is we want to do this the right way, but we’ve lost our trust. We’ve lost our credibility.”
Murphy last week appointed a State Health Benefits Quality and Value Task Force that will look at potential health-benefits changes and start proposing changes in October. The proposed budget would allocate $3.4 billion for health benefits coverage, about 9 percent of the spending plan.
Sweeney said that’s great but that more needs to be done about cost now, not down the road.
“Everything is getting swallowed up,” he said. “Pensions and health care are swallowing up everything.”
Nearly 3,000 retirees get pensions of at least $100,000 a year, including more than 1,600 former police officers and firefighters, more than 750 retired educators and more than 360 retired judges.
Fifty retirees get pensions of at least $150,000 a year, the most expensive being the $195,000 that A.Z. Yamba gets a year. He retired as the president of Essex County College in 2010, so his pension benefits have already exceeded $1 million.
The longest-paid pension in the six-figure club belongs to a relative of former Superior Court Judge Theodore Tams, who now gets almost $104,000 a year. Tams retired in August 1988 and died in 2002.
The longest-paid living retiree getting six figures is former Superior Court Judge Thomas Rumana, who gets $101,350 a year. Rumana, born in 1924, retired in 1991.
More than 14,000 retirees have been collecting checks for at least 30 years. Another 150 have been collecting checks for at least 50 years.
A relative of an East Orange teacher who retired in 1941 — the year Franklin D. Roosevelt started his third term as president and Pearl Harbor was attacked — is still getting $400 a month. The state data does not identify the retiree by name.
Five survivors of former public workers born in the 1890s are still receiving benefits.
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, D-Essex, the chairwoman of the budget committee, said the state must find ways to save costs on benefits or it will need to seek new revenue streams every year.
“Obviously moving forward we would have to have some very serious conversations when it comes to possibly some health-care initiatives or possibly some pension initiatives,” Pintor Marin said.
Seth Hahn, the legislative and political director for the Communications Workers of America union, said state workers are helping save money already, with four cuts to pension benefits since 2007 and new or increased payments toward health premiums.
“In real dollars, there are thousands and thousands of workers we represent who are seeing less take-home pay now than they were 10 years ago,” Hahn said. “So we talk about the need to save money. We’re there. We’ve been doing that. We’re taking part in that.”
Hahn said state workers have received 6.5 percent in raises over eight years, more than offset by the increased contributions toward health benefits and pensions.
“State workers in New Jersey pay more for their pension than any other state in the Northeast and they get a less generous benefit than any other state in the Northeast,” Hahn said. “So we’re there, right? We’re helping save money.”
Ginger Gold Schnitzer, director of government relations for the New Jersey Education Association, said the state hasn’t shored up the pension systems because it hasn’t met its own fiscal obligations during a decade of benefits cuts.
“Every time making public employees – school employees, teachers and education support professionals – work longer and get less,” she said. “And by the way we didn’t put in the money, so they have a less stable pension system.”
The final increase in what workers must contribute to the two main pension funds – the Public Employees’ Retirement System and Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund – under the 2011 reforms takes effect July 1.
At that point, workers will be paying in 7.5 percent of their salaries for PERS and TPAF, 12 percent for members of the Judicial Retirement System, 10 percent for the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System and PERS Prosecutors Part and 9 percent for the State Police Retirement System.
The pension contributions average an estimated 8.16 percent of payroll. Public workers are putting in around $2.1 billion this fiscal year – which is $493 million more than they would have before the pension changes adopted in 2011.
The employers’ payment will be at 20 percent of payroll in the coming fiscal year.