GREEN BAY (AP) – More than 3,000 public sector retirees returned to work for a public employer last year while drawing pensions from their old jobs, the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team has reported.
The team reported Thursday that state Department of Employee Trust Funds data show 3,025 retirees in the Wisconsin Retirement System – the public pension fund school, state and most municipal employees use – went back to work in 2013. Nearly 60 percent of the retirees who returned to work retired from school district jobs.
The leading hirers were the University of Wisconsin System with 345 employees; state employers with 336; county employers with 244; municipalities with 210; and technical colleges with 118. School districts with the most returning retirees included Green Bay with 46; Neenah with 43; Sheboygan and Wausau with 36 each; and Appleton with 30.
Former public employees going back to work while collecting their pension has been a hot topic since word broke in 2011 that the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay prepared a contract to re-hire a vice chancellor days before he officially announced his resignation.
Employers maintain hiring WRS retirees provides them with experienced workers who work cheaper because they no longer pay into the pension system. Critics counter that re-hiring retirees allows them to simultaneously draw a pension and a salary, amounting to inappropriate double-dipping.
The two-year state budget Gov. Scott Walker signed in June includes requirements that WRS retirees who return to work for a public employer stop collecting a pension and resume paying into the system if the job is two-thirds time or more. That means they can work about 27 hours a week while still collecting a pension from their former job.
The state began tracking retiree rehires after the budget went into effect in July. Employee Trust Funds spokesman Mark Lamkins said no WRS retirees halted their pension to return to work full-time between July and Jan. 31 of this year.