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Good PERS returns to reduce faculty subsidy for Bellotti’s pension?

Good news on PERS. High investment earnings and Kitzhaber’s cuts mean that it’s now 87% funded. I think that’s the best of any state pension fund. Ted Sickinger has the report, here.

But let’s face it, no one reads this blog for the good news. And the bad news is that UO is still on the hook for the unfunded pension liability of people like former football coach Mike Bellotti. Sickinger’s investigative piece on how UO’s decision to funnel Bellotti’s Nike money through UO boosted the pension for him and his wife former wife wife to ~$500K a year, and how we have to pay for it, is here.

The other good news? If you are pre-1995 Tier 1 faculty and opted into the ORP plan in 1996, (typically TIAA-CREF) UO’s contribution rate to your account is determined in part by the need to pay PERS the unfunded liability for the payouts to Bellotti and his ilk. The more Bellotti gets, the more UO has to pay PERS, and the more they have to pay into your retirement account. And if you are not Tier 1, or stayed in PERS, you don’t need to worry much about further cuts.

The bad? The S&P 500 was up 30% last year, so Treasurer Ted Wheeler 16% PERS earnings are not very impressive, even after a healthy risk adjustment. He would have done much better for the State by simply buying the basket, and furloughing his expensive stock-pickers. Also bad: If you went into the ORP, it’s now even more likely you could have done better staying in PERS. Even if you didn’t get a sweetheart deal from former UO General Counsel Melinda Grier, like Bellotti’s:

The ugly? UO’s PERS costs are set for the next 2 years, and VPFA Jamie Moffitt will likely use the fact that UO still has to pay for Bellotti in the next round of union negotiations – which will start in December – to argue that faculty are overpaid and that UO can’t afford more merit and equity money, just as she did last time. The probability that these rates will soon fall has increased, but I’m guessing if the union presses that point, Moffitt will choke and leave the room, just as she did last time.


  1. Anon 01/30/2014

    Still looking for a photo of Chip hugging Geller?

  2. honest Uncle Bernie 01/30/2014

    UOM says:

    “If you went into the ORP, it’s now even more likely you could have done better staying in PERS”

    But UOM is always questioning the value of being a Tier 1 PERS member, while acknowledging the 22.5% contribution that goes into a Tier 1 ORP member’s private account.

    It’s hard to have it both ways: if Tier 1 ORP is a sweet deal (which it is), and if Tier 1 PERS is better (the supposition of UOM, then Tier 1 PERS is an even sweeter deal.

    And shouldn’t this be taken into account in judging total compensation of UO Tier 1 faculty?

  3. honest Uncle Bernie 01/30/2014

    And re Bellotti’s pension: from the information publicly available, it is impossible to say whether “we” i.e. UO faculty (or more likely OUS faculty as a whole, the PERS rates are uniform across OUS, as far as I know) — are paying for Bellotti’s admittedly incomprehensible (but mandatory under PERS rules) pension.

    For all “we” know, the excess in Bellotti’s account may be entirely or more than entirely taken care of by the PERS costs on the UO Athletic Department payroll. I don’t consider UO AD personnel to be faculty — so if my hypothetical supposition is correct, it is not true to say that UO faculty are subsidizing his pension.

    It could be, for all anyone outside of PERS knows, that UO athletic personnel are subsidizing faculty pensions!

    • OVA 01/30/2014

      Bernie, very interesting. Again we need more transparency. I would guess as I think you implied, that PERS comes out of every OUS (for now) paycheck or every state employee paycheck, and there is not a line item per se in the Athletics, Foundation, or Nike (where the external funds came from).

      It would be interesting if the rate were divided when UO is no longer part of the OUS or the state. four of the top ten PERS are from the UO reaping about $1.23 Million a year. That is about $1500 from each ranked faculty, not sure how much per administrator.

      • honest Uncle Bernie 01/30/2014

        I agree that more transparency about the Bellotti situation might be good, though there has been more than enough invasion of privacy, in my opinion, in publishing the pensions of individuals with their names attached.

        It certainly is impossible for me to tell who really is paying for Bellotti’s pension — ticket buyers? students? faculty? you name it? — and believe me, I’ve tried to figure it out from what is publicly available.

        UO is still very much a part of “the state” and I don’t see that changing. Even if it did, it’s hard to imagine that the earlier PERS aspects would not be grandfathered in — if only to avoid endless legal troubles.

        OHSU, which is less tethered to the state than is UO, might offer some lessons re prospects for legal changes in UO pensions.

        • Fishwrapper 01/30/2014

          If one should not wish to have one’s public payments made public, one should not be a public employee. I dare say the invasion is only into the public trough, not into anyone’s “privacy.”

          • honest Uncle Bernie 01/30/2014

            Just wait until all the trough-feeders have their medical doings (Medicare or universal single-payer medicine); tax returns (tax breaks, via IRS); financial status (FAFSA higher ed financial aid) online. etc. etc.

            The age of Orwell is upon us with digital surveillance and online disclosure. Nobody’s “privacy” will be safe for long.

            The same types like yourself who bellow about public employees will be the first to cry “totalitarianism” when it happens to you.

          • Fishwrapper 01/30/2014

            I, too, am a public employee. Persons doing the public’s business should expect to have their work, and their pay for that work, in the public eye. There is a difference between what the state pays an individual in return for a job being done – from the most important ditch digger to the least important administrator – and what the state provides private persons towards their welfare. And you know that. Just because we must be ever more vigilant in this digital age of honest privacy concerns does not obviate our responsibility to keep sunshine on all of our state contracts for employee compensation.

  4. honest Uncle Bernie 01/30/2014

    It’s nice that you “know [what I know],” and that you’re such a staunch defender against “the invasion into the public trough.” But your statement belies that. “Providing private persons toward their welfare” merits even greater public scrutiny than “pay to an individual for a job done.” Precisely because one is just compensation, while the other is government largesse.

    • OVA 01/30/2014

      And to extend on fishwrap, that kind of openness should extend to anyone–and remember corporations are people–who is feeding at the trough of state funds, therefore, IRS forms for all people or corporations who are tax exempt, who take massive tax credits or other government funds for a substantial part of their operations (think BETC, insurance, medical and medical devices, pharmaceuticals, Energy companies, telecommunications, private for profit education, etc)

      I am not sure if I would want this but I do think that some of those really should be more open. I am actually not to bent out of shape that our salaries were posted with our names.

    • Fishwrapper 01/30/2014

      Dear Uncle Bernie,

      As by your reply I clearly I misrepresented you, I ask your forgiveness. In previous posts on this forum you seemed, to me, to express a certain air of sophistication, of an understanding of many issues below their surface appearances, and to understand and respect how nuance is an important part of gaining a solid grasp on and appreciation of the issues of the day. So, in a manner that seemed natural at the time, to me, I took the liberty of suggesting that you would apply that level of understanding to the question of public privacy and that would would have already seen the difference between a public employee, or a public contractor, and, say, a recipient of government medical reimbursements, housing assistance, or other public aid and welfare, as pertain to the discussion of public transparency being discussed in this particular thread.

      As my apparent miscalculation of your ken apparently resulted in your umbrage being expressed on this forum, I do truly, and humbly apologize; I do not know what you know. I should not have attributed to you the level of understanding, tact, and nuance that would separate a public employee’s compensation file from Aunt Millie’s PTSD treatment at the VA’s file in a discussion of public transparency.

      I do not disagree with you on accountability, however. There is much largesse bestowed upon the populace on the public dime. As we see the costs of paving our roads, so, too, should we be able to examine the books to ensure that we are getting a good deal providing medications at the VA. However, the question of privacy in the areas that you specifically mentioned, especially with regard to medical care, is a question that transcends the roles of public and private parties. It is possible to provide for the public welfare in an accountable manner, while at the same time doing so in a manner that respects the privacy of the individual, many of whom are engaged in the receiving end of the welfare equation in a manner less than voluntary.

      The fact is that there are laws regarding our privacy when it comes to medicine, to taxes,and to financial status. I, personally, am comfortable with those restrictions, as I know that it difficult to use those laws to shield illicit (graft) behavior – difficult, not impossible, but difficult. The size and scope of the public welfare system does lead to real advantages in modeling for the purposes of accountability; with all of the layers and walls that can be erected to protect one’s privacy in the (virtual) doctor’s office, we can honor the desire for privacy (by desire for privacy, I’m speaking for myself, as I have well learned to not presume to do so for you) and manage a process of accountability. Should it be more accountable? Arguably so. Should it be less private? Arguably not. (My arguments, as you are free to make your own.)

      Then again, my argument is based on a premise that a person seeking employment in the public sector is different than a person otherwise seeking a spot at the public teat for a welfare handout. There is a difference, though it involves nuance, and a more-than-surface- understanding of the bigger picture. One could introduce legislation that would put the employee behind the same privacy walls as the patient – or the other way, for that matter – but my reading of these issues over the years suggests, to me, that the general population feels we have balanced the fruit bowl with a good mix of apples and oranges. Those two questions of privacy stem from different fruits – they are apples and oranges, and should be. And you may not know that.

      • Big Bean Beamer Burnisher 01/31/2014

        That was …. beautiful.

  5. Fishwrapper 02/01/2014

    Thanks. I was aiming for a mug…

  6. PersReform 02/06/2014

    Why on earth are any athletics employees getting PERS to begin with??? They do not provide anything close to a public service. I’m certain that Mike Bellotti has never shown up at someone’s home at 5 in the morning to put out a fire. These are just thieves sucking the life out of a system that was never intended to pay some buffoon $40G per month in retirement benefits. Legislation to end this and Bellotti’s PERS payments needs to be taken up. Bellotti’s excuse for accepting PERS payments was that he didn’t make the rules. I wonder how loud he’d cry foul if those same rules were turned against him and the money stopped coming in?

  7. ImaDuck 03/27/2014

    Could you please provide more information about Nike’s payments
    to the UO Athletic Department and how Mike Bellotti
    channeled it to his own PERS account?

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