Meet Robert M. Sullivan. Mr Sullivan, at the age of 58 ( I believe), ‘retired’ as the Superintendent of the Middleboro Massachusetts School District, where he was earning 128,000.00 per year. But like many “retired” public school superintendents, he didn’t stay retired for very long. He’s currently the Superintendent for the six schools that make up SAU #21 in New Hampshire. (Hampton Falls, North and South Hampton, Seabrook and Winnacunnet Co-op.)
But he’s retired!
“Retired?” Retired, to a Superintendent means you have a new job lined up before you leave the job you retired from, which the retiring Sullivan did. But while Mr. Sullivan is working in the Granite State he isn’t moving to New Hampshire permanently. He and his wife are staying in Massachusetts. Why?
…the out-of-state job will enable Robert M. Sullivan to collect his full Massachusetts pension, estimated to be in the range of $70,000 to $85,000, while also being paid for his new position.
So Superintendent Sullivan ‘retired’ so he could double-dip, collecting a $70,000.00 to $85,000.00 per year pension from the taxpayers in Massachusetts, while collecting a generous salary in New Hampshire? (I have not identified Sullivan’s SAU 21 compensation, but the national average is around $160,000.00 per year, and the man he is replacing earned $126,000.00 so his new wage is probably…’adequate.’)
Mrs. Sullivan is probably doing rather well. She is still a teacher and coach in Middleboro, so things are probably comfortable. Comfortable enough so that when Bob says he would like a “second residence” in New Hampshire to avoid a “difficult daily commute,” that this would not be a huge burden on them. Just hope no one registers to vote from that address.
So Double-Dipping is good work if you can get it, yes? Here is a man who is probably more than qualified to do the job at SAU21. I don’t doubt that. And he is certainly young enough to do it for a number of years and probably be very effective. And yet somehow, while still in the prime of his life, at what could turn out to be his peak earning years, he could be making close to three times the national average in income per year from one school ditrict while simultaneously taking a pension almost double the national annual income on top of that from another, because he was allowed to ‘retire” from his other taxpayer funded job–and collect his substantial pension–long before he should have been able to.
Don’t you wish you could retire at 58 and start collecting $70-85K a year for the rest of your life–plus some walking around money from a side job that pays a lot more? And people wonder why public sector pensions are in distress, running deficits in the billions? People wonder why taxpayers get a bit grumpy when public sector workers cry about raises, or complain about having to pay for more of their own pensions or benefits. This is why!
Now I think everyone who is able should be Working to support themselves or their family. Earning what you are worth is between you, and your employer, and no one else. But burying taxpayers in billions in pensions and benefits package benefits that will pay out sums that most of those taxpayers will never ever see for themselves in actual wages, is a path that leads to the bursting of the public pension bubble. Sure, it may not affect most public employees well along in their careers, but someone in the not so distant future is going to get screwed.
What the up and coming career public employees need to understand is that the unions really don’t care or they’d be writing contracts that deflate the bubble now. The majority of existing public employees, union or not, don’t seem to care either because if they did, they’d be pitching a lot more into their own benefits and pensions or voting for contracts that deflate that bubble faster to secure some kind of pension for future state workers. But is not what we appear to have. While we are picking at the edges during a down economy, all abut a few are hoping someting happens to make the problem go away. But the only thing that will do that on this trajectory is when someone says, yeah, I know you put x number of years in, but there’s no money. That means no pensions, slash and burn layoffs, and all those people whose protection or education demanded higher wages or larger benefit plans–they’re all screwed too.
They will suffer because people who went before them took $80,000 dollar per year (or more) pensions while still more than able to earn as much or more than that, sometimes for ten, fifteen or even twenty years. That is not what the pension was meant for. And it has to stop.
This is not, by the way, the fault of Bob Sullivan. I do not begrudge him his pension windfall. He is just following the “rules.” But wouldn’t it look a lot better if he could let someone who hadn’t retired on a decent pension get a shot at improving their career instead of improving his own after he retired on a wage most Americans will never see in their lifetimes? Is there no sense of guilt at screwing taxpayers in Massachusetts out so much in a pension, for so many years, while being able bodied enough to cross the border and earn even more on top of that, doing the exact same job, someplace else?
Mr. Sullivan is not alone. There are more than a few such superintendents in New Hampshire right now, doing the same thing. And yes, we are going to talk about them as well.