Top pension in Nevada PERS hits $278,000 — despite being reduced payout

For Immediate Release 
Contact Robert Fellner, 702-222-0642

LAS VEGAS — Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute released pension payout data from the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS) for the fiscal year ending 2016 on TransparentNevada.com — the state’s largest public-pay database.

The data reveals 1,605 retirees are collecting an annualized pension payout of at least $100,000 — a 37 percent increase from the previous year’s report.

The top payout went to former University of Nevada, Reno head coach of football Chris Ault who collected $278,497.

“Even more shocking, however, is the fact that this is actually a reduced benefit,” explained Nevada Policy Research Institute Transparency Director Robert Fellner.

Retirees have the option of receiving a reduced amount in exchange for other benefits — such as being able to pass the pension on to beneficiaries in the case of death.

NPRI estimates Ault’s full pension would have been around $400,000 had he decided not to take advantage of the provision that allowed him to pass his reduced benefit on to a beneficiary after he passes away.

The next three highest payouts went to:

  1. former Clark County worker Robert Taylor: $262,173
  2. former Clark County fire battalion chief Paul Calabrese: $259,372
  3. former Clark County fire battalion chief Donald O' Shaughnessy: $248,418

The average retiree with at least 30 years of service collected a pension of $68,899 — nearly half of whom also elected to receive a reduced benefit in a manner similar to Ault.

Among the public entities that had at least 100 retirees, the highest average full-career pensions for former employees were:

  1. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, at an average of $98,534
  2. City of Henderson, at an average of $94,729
  3. Clark County, at an average of $90,522
  4. City of North Las Vegas, at an average of $86,127        
  5. City of Las Vegas, at an average of $85,565

Multiple retirees receive pension payouts that appear to exceed the legislative mandate given PERS in NRS 286.015 to “provide a reasonable base income to qualified employees…whose earning capacity has been removed or has been substantially reduced by age or disability.”

Examples include:

  • Former Metro Lt. and now assistant federal public defender Dan Coe, who began drawing at age 38 his annual $110,804 PERS pension, which over his lifetime is estimated to total $13.2 million.
  • Former Clark County fire chief Bertral Washington, who receives an annual $105,695 PERS payout for his 25 years of service, while simultaneously drawing $308,000 annually in pay and benefits as Pasadena, California's fire chief.
  • Former Las Vegas fire chief John (Mike) Myers, who collects a $119,327 annual pension for his 27 years of service while receiving an approximately $180,000 salary as the new fire chief for Portland, Oregon.

At over $1.4 billion, PERS costs for Nevada taxpayers and government workers equaled 12 percent of all state and local tax revenue combined in 2013 — the second highest rate nationwide.

Fellner notes that the Legislature is largely responsible for the burden being passed onto today’s government workers.

“Short-sighted legislators passed extraordinary enhancements whose costs will take decades to unwind. Today’s workforce is now required to pay for these mistakes in the form of larger payroll deductions and reduced benefits.

“As a result, all three stakeholders — employers, taxpayers and workers — would benefit from reform.”

To explore the full dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, visit TransparentNevada.com.

For NPRI’s analyses of the Nevada PERS situation, visit: http://www.npri.org/issues/detail/pers

Media Inquiries

Media inquiries should be directed to Michael Schaus, NPRI's Communications Director.
michael@nevadapolicy.org
(702) 222-0642