The state Attorney General’s Office is investigating whether Schenectady municipal workers are padding their pensions by working an unusual amount of overtime just before retirement.
Schenectady came under scrutiny because it has one of the highest proportions of pension costs in the state, according to the attorney general’s press release. Pension costs make up 8.1 percent of the city’s annual budget. Most municipalities spend just 2 percent of their budget on pensions, AG Andrew Cuomo said.
Cuomo has been investigating the issue since mid-March. There are now 64 municipalities and other entities under scrutiny.
In Schenectady, Cuomo wants to see all payroll data so that he can determine whether improper pension padding occurred here. He has made similar requests to the other entities being investigated.
Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden noted that city police have often doubled their salary with overtime in the last few years before retirement, which vastly increases their pension.
But Van Norden said the city can’t stop them.
“It’s my understanding that whatever they’re doing to get this overtime, it’s all a function of the collective bargaining agreement,” he said.
The mayor and other city officials have often criticized the overtime system, saying that they could reduce their costs significantly if younger, lesser-paid officers worked the overtime instead.
“But most of these assignments are driven by seniority,” Van Norden said.
Cuomo is looking into pension padding because pension payments have more than doubled in the past 10 years. Payments to those in both the Employees’ Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System have jumped from $3.5 billion in 1999 to more than $7.3 billion in 2009.