This story about the Arkansas Dept. of Workforce Services making $161 million in improper unemployment payments has opened up some swell reportage and commentary from around the state. A sample:
- John Lyon at the Arkansas News Bureau contributed this nice issue primer based on department officials announcing that they were studying the overpayments to determine the extent of the problem.
- Our friend Michael Tilley of The City Wire in Fort Smith published the cri de coeur of a small business owner furious at being harassed by a state government that squanders money wildly.
- Jason Tolbert at the Tolbert Report reminded us that DWS chief Artee Williams recently joined the ranks of state government double-dippers, having “retired” in July only to return a month later to collect both a salary and a pension.
Regarding this last: Just how much money is that for a double-dipper of Williams’ estimable stature? The Arkansas Project is here to help you figure that out, through a process of reasonable speculation and best-guess estimation!
The Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS) publishes their formula for calculating monthly retirement benefits in the APERS handbook, and they also host a handy benefits calculator at their website. But it’s still pretty complicated, so we’re gonna need help.
Awakening the Guru
To help with the calculations, I approached The Guru, an elderly acquaintance who toils away deep in the bowels of state government, where he strokes his long gray beard, gazes out upon the world from yellowed eyes, and awaits the day when he, too, can embrace retirement and leave behind the Kafkaesque nightmare that is state employment.
In response to my request, the Guru dispatched a courier with documents containing his stab at estimating Williams’ pension and the results may SHOCK you. Take it away, Guru, and show your work!:
Since Williams retired at the end of the 2010 fiscal year, we have to use the three years prior to figure his average maximum salary. Williams was just shy of the maximum salary level for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. So let’s just assume he drew near the maximum average of all three years. That gives us an average of $132,614.
Now we get to the sticky part because we need to know whether he was contributory or not and that makes a huge difference actually. Then there is the multiplier issue which changes once you have 28 years. And there are tons of options. Plus, it matters whether or not he was contributory. But let’s play with the numbers.
Let’s say he is retiring with the above mentioned maximum average of $132,614.
Let’s say he had 40 years (1971-2011) at the non-contributory rate, which pays less.
For purposes of the calculator, I had to set his retirement date at October 1.
So, based on those criteria, Williams would draw somewhere around $7,833 per month, or $93,996 per year in retirement.
Now, let’s look at contributory.
Let’s say he had the same breakdown as above but all at the contributory rate. Now his retirement jumps to a possible $11,051 per month or $132,612 per year. Of course, I doubt he was contributory all those years because he didn’t make that much money for many of those years. So it matters how many years he was contributory and when those years occurred.
Still, you can be pretty sure he is somewhere between $7,833 up to $11,051 per month in retirement benefits.
In case you are wondering, let’s look at what would happen if his salary multiplier were 10 percent lower. So, 90 percent of $132,614 comes out to $119,353. Stuff that into the calculation and keep it at non-contributory for the entire time and you come up with $7,049 per month.
It really does come out that he can be making anywhere from roughly $220,000 per year on the bottom end upwards to as much as $269,000 per year as a double-dipper.
(DK NOTE: Guru’s response edited for length; any errors probably inserted by me)
Thanks, Guru! Remember, caveats apply: This is a best estimate based on the APERS calculator. Information on specific employee pensions is exempted from FOIA requests, and there are lots of moving parts to any pension calculation based upon the employee’s individual circumstances.
Still: Could it be that DWS Director Artee Williams could be taking home up to a quarter million dollars per annum, all the while shoveling out tens of millions of dollars through a poorly managed unemployment insurance system that fails every test of fiscal accountability? It’s certainly starting to look that way.