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Connecticut’s Top 10 Pensioners for 2012

by | Sep 3, 2013 1:59am
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, State Budget, Taxes, State Capitol

(Corrected Sept. 5, 11:16 a.m.) Last month the U.S. Census released a report that found Connecticut offered the highest average annual benefit payment in 2011.

With an average annual payment of $35,079 to retirees, Connecticut was one of six states with average annual benefit payments above $30,000. In 2011, 469 pensioners received annual pensions of more than $100,000.

Just one year later in 2012, according to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s office, Connecticut’s top pensioner was John Viega, a former professor at the University of Connecticut, who received an annual pension of $276,364. Gregory Anderson, a UConn professor, came in 10th with an annual pension of $185,778.

The rest of the top 10 pensioners in 2012, were as follows:

—Jack Blechner of the UConn Health Center, received $270,234;
—Dr. Edward Blanchette, a doctor with the Department of Correction, received $226,658;
—Harry Hartley, a UConn professor and former president of the university, received $211,652;
—Richard Judd, former president of Central Connecticut State University, received $208,335;
—Eugene Sigman of the UConn Health Center, received $204,352;
—Anthony Dibenedetto, another UConn professor, received $203,594;
—John Raye of the UConn Health Center, received $200,597 and;
—Leslie Cutler of the UConn Health Center, received $198,318.

In 2011, pension benefits for state employees were changed under the agreement made by the coalition of unions with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

As part of those negotiations Malloy asked all state employees to contribute 3 percent of their salaries for 10 years to the “other post retirement benefits” account, which includes mostly retiree health care benefits. That portion of the pension fund is underfunded to the tune of $26 billion and accounts for a greater portion of the state’s unfunded liabilities.

According to the U.S. Census report released in August, Connecticut isn’t unlike the rest of the states when it comes to asking employees to contribute a greater amount.

From 2010 to 2011, total contributions for state—and locally—administered pension systems increased 8.7 percent, from $125.5 billion to $136.5 billion. Employee contributions increased 3.1 percent, from $39.1 billion in 2010 to $40.3 billion in 2011 (and comprised 29.5 percent of total contributions in 2011), according to the U.S. Census report. Government contributions increased 11.3 percent, from $86.4 billion in 2010 to $96.2 billion in 2011 (and comprised 70.5 percent of total contributions in 2011).

On balance though, “government contributions outweighed employee contributions with a 2.4 to 1 ratio, total contributions were only 22.2 percent of the revenue source for state and local pensions in 2011. Most of the revenue (77.8 percent) was from earnings on investments.”

Connecticut has done well with its pension investments, seeing a return this past year of 11.49 percent. However, the state still has one of the highest unfunded pension liabilities in the nation.

The most recent actuarial valuation of the pension funds showed that as of June 30, 2012, the State Employees’ Retirement System was funded at 42.3 percent and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund was funded at 55.24 percent.

The next report is not due to be released until after the Nov. 2014 election.

Editor’s note: An original version of this story reported that Michael Panciera, a former Transportation Department employee, received an annual pension of $282,166 and that Eleanor Henken, a former UConn Health Center employee, receive a pension of $239,708. The state Comptroller’s office later discovered that their query of the top 10 pensioners was flawed because those two, one-time payments went to the estates of the deceased employees and should not have been considered annual pension payments.

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(12) Archived Comments

posted by: ASTANVET | September 3, 2013  8:44am

Oh god, i just threw up in my mouth… 276K a year??? I am thinking the state should offer a lump sum payment as a retirement option.  Some of the Hazardous duty employees may opt for a lump sum as they are only 45 avg age and can work towards another pension… may reduce long term liability for the pension fund.  I’m not an actuary though, that may have flawed logic in it.

posted by: Noteworthy | September 3, 2013  10:31am

CT didn’t “do well” with its pension accounts last year. It simply rode the wave of stock increases in every sector of the market. In that respect, it’s returns were average. If you look at two years - the return drops to 5.245 because the previous year, the pension funds lost 1%. That return is below the 8 or 8.5% that is traditionally budgeted.

posted by: Noteworthy | September 3, 2013  10:35am

Well, I’m really glad we’re #1 in something beside highest per capita debt. It’s rather remarkable that so many UCONN people are on the top 10. That coincides nicely with the fat pay raises they just awarded themselves - yeah, those folks alreadying knocking down $2,3, 400,000 dollars who needed an extra $10K to make ends meet. They’ll all be on the top 10 list some day.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | September 3, 2013  11:50am

I will say it again.The reason why you have a problem with the Pension system is the elites have looted the pension coffins .This is happing acroos this country.No one disputes that there’s a pension crisis, but the crisis was no demographic accident.When pension plans, by and large, were well funded, thanks in large part to rules enacted in the 1970s that required employers to fund the plans adequately and laws adopted in the 1980s that made it tougher to raid the plans or use the assets for their own benefit.Thanks to these rules, and to the long-running bull market that pumped up assets, by the end of the 1990s pension plans had such massive surpluses that could fully pay their current and future retirees pensions, even if all of them lived to be 99 never contributed another dime.Now Today, pension plans are collectively underfunded, hundreds are frozen, and retiree health benefits are a endangered species thanks to employers who turned retiree benefits plans into cookie jars of potential earnings enhancements and provided employers with the means to convert the trillion dollars in pensions and retiree benefits into an immediate, dollar-for-dollar benefit for there own use.Also the problem is what is the pension fund being Invest in.Case and point New York State invest some of there pension funds into companies like best Buy and Bed and Bath.As of March 22, 2013, the Fund owned 770,945 shares of Best Buy valued at $17.6 million and 703,193 shares of Bed Bath & Beyond valued at $45.4 million.

Read the rest.

https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/mar13/032913.htm

This Public Pension System Works.

http://youtu.be/cXC9gFjV9H4

posted by: dano860 | September 3, 2013  3:41pm

Even before I saw the list my guess was that they would all be tied to the education system most notably UCONN.
This is the typical area that needs to be changed and a 401K plan put in place of the golden plan they have today.

posted by: perturbed | September 3, 2013  9:49pm

perturbed

This is another sensational story targeting state employees. Well, Connecticut must have some amazingly well paid teachers and top agency administrators for their pensions to be that high. Too bad the rank-and-file are painted with the same brush, though our circumstances are far removed from those “top ten”.

It would be nice to know more details about those pensions, and those of more typical state employees.

• What was the median pension? This measure would avoid the problem of those humongous pensions skewing the average.

• Were all of those (sensational) top 10 pensions Tier I pensions? There won’t be many of those being created from now on.

• Tier I pensions are probably 50% to 100% higher than those of all the rest. What is the median Tier II pension?

• What percentage of Tier I employees are still employed? Are we down to about 5% of the workforce left in Tier I by now?

• What will be the effect of the 3-year increase in retirement age for everyone else? The doubling of the early retirement penalty for everyone else? Cutting the COLA by 20%? Starting a brand new retirement tier—Tier III? There’s no question those reforms implemented two years ago will reduce the size of future pensions—or pension liabilities in general. This story could have benefited from more depth on these reforms.

Even so, by far the biggest change already set to happen—even without SEBAC 2011—is that in the not too distant future, all new retirees will be Tier II of Tier IIa. Most people have no idea how much smaller Tier II and IIa pensions will be than Tier I pensions.

—perturbed

posted by: Wiley Coyote | September 4, 2013  9:02am

Christine:  Why doesn’t the IRS 415(b) retiree pension limits affect these people?  This came out during SEBAC when these high salaries were posted.  Kevin Lembo, Comptroller said then his office would begin following this tax code even though his predecessor did not.  Did he lie?  The limits would cut these pensions by 3/4.

posted by: Chien DeBerger | September 4, 2013  9:14am

Good for them. I hope they are spending their hard earned money in another state…

posted by: JamesBronsdon | September 4, 2013  10:47am

Ray, I don’t think the IRS limits the amount of pension. I think there may be a limit as to the amount a private entity can pay and have it deductible as a business expense. Not sure there is any bearing on public pensions. This is not my area of expertise, however.

posted by: DCSCT1 | September 4, 2013  1:56pm

I remember reading in another article that the average state pension is about 35,000. Take all the high 6 figure pensions out and the number would be less.  Similar to state median income.  Fairfield County makes it artificially high.

posted by: perturbed | September 4, 2013  9:50pm

perturbed

FYI, for those interested in scratching below the surface on state pensions, an extremely informative article is available here:  FACT CHECK: The Truth about State Employee Pensions 

I should mention, the data must be at least two years older than the data used in the recent census report.

One more warning: the article presents little of the sensationalist “red meat” offered elsewhere.

According to the author, Jon Pelto,

“The state of Connecticut is facing significant fiscal challenges, but unless and until politicians and editorial writers handle the situation honestly, it is going to be impossible for the public to understand and properly engage [in] the debate.”

You’re an oasis of integrity, Jon!

—perturbed

posted by: art vandelay | September 5, 2013  6:33am

art vandelay

The state of Connecticut should have been out of the “Pension Business” long ago. Every state employee including police, teachers & professors should be in a 401K with a matching 5% like the rest of the private sector.  State employees should be no better than the rest of the working world.
Oh I forgot.  The state legislature is OWNED by SEBAC & the CEA.