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News & Press: Pension

Big Dippers: 20 Temps Collect $3.6M a Year in Salary Plus State Pension

Tuesday, March 29, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 3/29/2016

As the most expensive part-time temporary worker in New Jersey government last year, educator Ron Karsen can teach state taxpayers a hard lesson in economics. Karsen has collected nearly $1 million from public coffers since July 2011. That was the month he retired as a Newark school principal and was hired into a NJ Department of Education program to help underperforming schools. In 2015, NJDOE paid Karsen $138,300 as executive director of a Regional Achievement Center in Paterson. He also received a $97,916 a year state pension – thanks to a lucrative loophole in the law. His annual total was $236,216. Karsen, who did not respond to requests for comment, resigned as a RAC director in November. But other highly-paid temps continue to take advantage of the system. A NJ Spotlight investigation found 20 “Temporary Employment Service” workers were paid more than $75,000 by NJDOE last year while they received retirement checks from the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund.  On average, they raked in $182,000 in 2015 – $102,000 in pay and $79,000 from pension. Overall, the combined cost was $3.64 million – $2.06 million from NJDOE and $1.58 million from TPAF.  Generally, TPAF pension benefits must be suspended when retired educators return to work in public school systems. But when NJDOE hires them as TES workers, they are exempted from a pension rule intended to prevent double-dipping. So they can legally pocket both state pay and retirement checks, year after year. Seven double-dipping TES workers on NJDOE’s payroll each raked in more than $200,000 last year. Last year, 14 temps were paid six-figure sums by NJDOE. Twelve of them received TPAF pensions.  In an effort to halt double-dipping, Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and a few other lawmakers have been proposing legislation since 2011. The latest is S-515, a measure that would suspend pension payments to retired officials who return to public jobs paying more than $15,000 a year. None of Beck’s reform bills have reached the Senate floor for debate or votes, a process controlled by leadership in the majority party.

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