CARSON CITY — Nosey about how much of a pension the retired firefighter down the street earns?
Well, the Nevada Policy Research Institute has made it easy for you to find out. Starting Thursday the organization will post on its TransparentNevada website the estimated annual pensions of the 49,073 retired state and local government employees.
This is the website that drew 1.98 million views last year because it allowed people to see how much money current public employees earn. In particular, it showed that hundreds of firefighters earn more than Gov. Brian Sandoval’s annual $149,000 salary.
On TransparentNevada, readers will find the 1,054 past workers will receive more than $100,000 this year in retirement benefits from the Public Employees’ Retirement System. Eleven will receive more than $200,000.
NPRI, a conservative think tank based in Las Vegas, also found that 10,755 retired workers will receive more than the state’s median household income of $54,083.
And over half of the total retirees will collect more than $2,642 per month. That is the maximum monthly Social Security benefit for a person who retires at 66, without a spouse or minor children.
The state Supreme Court in a recent decision ordered PERS to make public much of the information it possesses about retirement benefits paid to public employees. However, PERS only made January figures public. To calculate annual pensions, the NPRI multiplied by 12 what these employees were paid in January.
When the January pension figures were posted by PERS, the agency warned the news media against using one month’s figures to extrapolate the yearly payments because adjustments could be made during the year that lowered or increased the annual pensions of retirees. NPRI spokeswoman Chantal Lovell acknowledged that potential problem, but added because PERS won’t give out annual pension figures that her organization had no option but to multiply the January figures.
“The PERS payouts now available on TransparentNevada show exactly why PERS bureaucrats worked so hard to keep this secret,” said Andy Matthews, president of NPRI. “The information shows — in inflated retirement payout after inflated retirement payout — what Nevadans have long suspected: Public employee pensions are exorbitant and unsustainable.”
NPRI noted that under the most commonly acceptable accounting method, PERS has an unfunded liability of $41 billion.
In its annual report in 2013, PERS said the average monthly benefit payment was $2,654 for regular employees, with an average retirement age of 65. For police and firefighters, the average monthly payment was $4,637, with an average retirement age of 59.
The website has a listing of pensions from the highest to the lowest. It also allows searches by name. For example, former UNR football coach Chris Ault ranked second with a $273,000 annual pension.
Then there’s former Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, who served 36 years in the Legislature. He earns just $8,863 a year.
And former Gov., state Attorney General and legislator Richard Bryan earns two pensions that combined bring him $36,886 a year. Bryan later served in the U.S. Senate, which has a separate pension plan.
Bryan, 76, is still working as a lawyer.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901. Follow him on Twitter at @edisonvogel.