Sunshine Week: Searchable database of N.H. retirement system ‘double-dippers’ 

  • FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2013 file photo, freshly cut stacks of $100 bills make their way down the line at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth, Texas. We spend decades planning financially for retirement, analyzing whether our savings will carry us comfortably through post-work life. But we don’t necessarily plan for the emotional challenges of leaving the workforce. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Monday, March 20, 2017

A part-time, retired employee of the Keene School District earned $30 million last year for 306 hours of work – or $98,000 per hour – according to unaudited data released by the New Hampshire Retirement System.

That information is incorrect, but it’s the best the public has to evaluate the hours and compensation of so-called “double dippers,” or workers who retire with a government pension and then go back to work for the government, collecting a paycheck and a pension at the same time.

These workers and their employers don’t contribute a portion of their pay into the retirement system – as would be the case for non-retired workers – so they don’t help repair the retirement system’s multi-billion dollar unfunded liability.

Until two years ago, no one was keeping track of how many double dippers existed or how much they were earning. A few high-profile cases gained the attention the public – and lawmakers – especially when towns filled formerly full-time positions with part-time retirees. But the overall accounting was unavailable until the Legislature ordered government employers to file monthly reports naming their double-dippers and the amounts they earned in 2013.

The change passed in House Bill 342 was prompted in part by the retirement system’s more than $4 billion unfunded liability, or the gap between the benefits it has promised and the cash it has on hand. 

The data released for 2016 has its obvious anomalies. It is later audited and summarized by the Retirement System, but the individual reporting from towns can have errors that go uncorrected in the raw data, which is subject to the Right to Know Law. None is more eye-popping than the $30 million-a-year teacher, but according to the unaudited figures, two other Keene teachers topped $10 million apiece. Not likely.

Requests for summary data for each retiree who has returned to work for a public employer have gone unfulfilled.

We’ve posted the available data as it was received, with editing to combine weekly numbers into yearlong totals.