Pensions in Nevada are often better than paychecks, new analysis shows

For Immediate Release

Contact Chantal Lovell

January 22, 2015

702- 222-0642, 951-295-4855 (cell)

LAS VEGAS — Many of Nevada’s public employees are retiring in the lap of luxury, according to a new analysis by the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

The analysis, written by NPRI executive vice president Victor Joecks and transparency manager Robert Fellner, finds that public employees in Nevada often receive a pension larger than their final base pay. Using new data uploaded on Thursday to, the researchers compared the full-year equivalent 2013 retirement payouts of 2011-2013 full-career retirees in 10 of Nevada’s largest government agencies with their final-year base pay.

In the seven municipal governments analyzed, Clark County, Washoe County, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Las Vegas Metro, Henderson, Reno, retirees with 30-plus years of service credit average pensions worth more than their final year of base pay — 100.59 percent of their base pay. Clark and Washoe County School District retirees receive over 89 percent of their final year’s base pay as retirement, while State of Nevada retirees receive pensions equal to 83.71 percent of their final year base pay.

Police and fire retirees receive the highest pensions, receiving 114 percent of their base pay.

Fellner noted that the study demonstrates part of the reason the Nevada Public Employee Retirement System has an unfunded liability of over $40 billion.

Retirees receiving not only their final year’s base pay, but more, for decades-long retirements should concern every taxpaying Nevadan, including public retirees. PERS has an unsustainable unfunded liability that has, in the past decade, ballooned to over $40 billion — over $40,000 worth of debt per household in Nevada. Taxpayers have been forced to significantly increase the amount they are paying toward public employees’ retirements as a result.

If the current Nevada Legislature fails to implement meaningful PERS reform, something akin to what was approved in the State of Utah, the pensions of tens of thousands of Nevada retirees and the long-term financial stability of the State will remain in jeopardy.

It is also not equitable to raise taxes on Nevada residents, who struggle to save for their own retirements, in order to pay for income-replacement-level retirement packages for government retirees.

Fellner noted that though the system assumes an 8 percent rate of return on investment will provide the funds needed to meet its future obligations, PERS’ actuarial investment returns have only once topped 8 percent in the years 2002 through 2013. As a result, taxpayer contributions to police and fire pensions have jumped from 28.5 percent of salaries in 2002 to 40.5 percent in 2013. For regular government employees, the taxpayer contributions have risen from 18.75 percent to 25.75 percent over that same period.

In conjunction with the analysis release, NPRI updated Transparent Nevada to include new 2013 PERS payout information. The new data is searchable by retiree names and payouts and now contains information on years of service and last employer. This is the first time that supplemental information has been publicly available and is necessary to confidently link the salary and pensions of government employees. The additional information provides further transparency to taxpayers and information to policymakers charged with curbing PERS’ burgeoning debt.

The full analysis can be read here.


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