Michigan’s Top School Pension Payouts

Apr 5, 2018 by

These retired school officials collect more than twice the average teacher’s current pay

By Tom Gantert –

During Barbara Fowler’s final year working as superintendent of the Troy School District in 2014, she had 42 years of experience in public schools and was earning a salary of $222,054.

Now retired, Fowler collects an annual pension of $145,140 as a member of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, or MPSERS.

Fowler’s annual pension payout is the sixth-highest currently being paid to a retired public education employee in this state.

Albert Lorenzo, a former president of Macomb Community College, is collecting the highest annual pension payout at $204,264.

Individual MPSERS pensions get a 3 percent annual cost-of-living increase every year. To illustrate the value of those increases, The Detroit News reported that former Forest Hills Public Schools Superintendent Jon Washburn was collecting $136,027 in 2011. That was then the second-highest school pension payout in the state. By 2016 Washburn’s payout had grown to $161,124, a $25,097 increase over a five-year period, making it the third highest in the state.

In comparison, the average Michigan teacher salary was $62,280 in 2016-17. A teacher who worked in the public school system for 30 years and then retired earning that statewide average salary would get an annual pension of $28,026 a year.

The annual pension payments of some past Michigan school officials rival the annual salaries paid to current top education officials. For example, James McCann collects an annual MPSERS pension of $142,728 a year. Before he retired, he was the superintendent of the Lamphere School District, which has about 2,500 students. The current Lamphere superintendent was paid $162,111 in 2017.

Iris Salters, a former Michigan Education Association president, had the fifth-highest MPSERS pension in 2016 at $147,924 a year. Salters was allowed by state law and the school district where she had worked to plug her $235,447 union salary into the state pension formula used to calculate retirement benefits. The arrangement gives her the system’s fifth-highest annual payout.

The pension information comes from OpenTheBooks.com, a nonprofit that tracks salary and pension information for local governments around the country.

Here’s a list of the top eight MSPERS pensions as of 2016:

  • Albert Lorenzo, former president of Macomb Community College, $204,264
  • Thomas Svitkovich, former superintendent of Genesee Intermediate School District, $188,448
  • Jon Washburn, former superintendent of Forest Hills Public Schools, $161,124
  • Donald Newport, former president of Alpena Community College, $148,836
  • Iris Salters, former president of the Michigan Education Association, $147,924
  • Barbara Fowler, former superintendent of Troy Public Schools, $145,140
  • Mark Eckhardt, former superintendent of the Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District, $144,012
  • James McCann, former superintendent of the Lamphere School District, $142,728

Source: Michigan’s Top School Pension Payouts [Michigan Capitol Confidential]

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