Most taxpayers probably don't know how good a pension deal many public employees get. Unlike your 401(k) that your employer may or may not contribute to and all you can expect from it is whatever it's worth by the time you retire, most public employees get a defined-benefit pension. Typically a public employee receives for the rest of his life a fixed percentage of his top salary upon leaving his job, provided that he has served a certain number of years. For example, an employee of the City of Grand Rapids is entitled to receive one-quarter of his salary as a pension after only ten years' service with the City.
That's a swell deal. Even better is that once you qualify to receive a City pension, you can quit your job with the City and then the City hires you back as a private consultant at your old salary minus benefits. So now you receive both a paycheck and a pension check from the City! We reported on this double-dipping scam a few months ago regarding the City Engineer.
Double-dipping is not restricted to the City of Grand Rapids. A lot of the public school districts in the area do the same thing. Senior administrators retire, begin drawing their pensions, and resume their old positions under a private consulting contracts. The practice isn't cheap. The annual salaries paid out can exceed $100,000, while the pension may be as much as $50,000 a year. This is the sort of deal GRPS Superintendent Bert Bleke has set up for himself when his pension vests after only five years on the job.
The lame excuse that school superintendents give for this crap is that it saves the school district the cost of paying benefits to a retired administrator while retaining his experience. What they never explain is why the re-hired administrator is allowed to draw his pension in the first place, which typically costs the taxpayers double the savings from not paying benefits -- which, by the way, overlooks the fact that these pensioners often do receive retirement health plans and the such. Another lame justification is that businesses do this. Of course, if a business owner miscalculates he loses profits or may even go bankrupt. There is no such discipline in a public school district. If the taxpayer cannot be tapped for more to cover double-dipping by senior administrators, then they can instead cut programs for the students.
It is uncertain how many school district condone the double-dipping practice. The Grand Haven public school district is a particularly aggressive promoter of double-dipping with at least eight administrators drawing two checks from the taxpayers. Other area school districts that have double-dippers are Allendale, Caledonia, Wyoming, and Zeeland. The superintendent of the Forest Hills district, Mike Washburn, is pushing double-dipping although he knows how obnoxious the practice is to taxpayers. (Interesting how normally craven public officials become profiles in courage in the defense of lavish compensation.) Also, as indicated above, it appears that the Grand Rapids public school district has no objections to double-dipping if it allows Bleke to do it a year from now.
Meanwhile, kudos to Kentwood Superintendent Mary Leiker who has flat out declared double-dipping to be unethical and absolutely will not permit it in her district.