Two former police officers — only two — collected $532,753 in overpayments from the New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS) since they retired in 2001. Under an agreement reached in June, they will have to repay only $20,000 each. That is bad news for taxpayers and retirees.
The NHRS is underfunded by $4.5 billion. That is, the system owes $4.5 billion more to retirees than it can pay. For decades, politicians voted for high retiree benefits and low contributions. Earlier this year municipalities were hit with large increases in mandated retirement contributions as part of the retirement system's effort to fill that gap over the next quarter century. That is the context in which this settlement must be viewed.
The system's demand for more revenue is prompting local governments to raise taxes. And yet the system balked when faced with an opportunity to recoup more than $500,000 from two retirees.
The retirees in question, John M. Egan and Brian J. Loanes, took other public-sector, full-time jobs after their retirement. Upon taking those jobs, they should have resumed their contributions to the retirement system and stopped taking their police retirement pay. That did not happen. But instead of reclaiming that money, the NHRS reached a settlement that allowed the men to repay only $20,000 each, at $83 a month. The rest is lost. No wonder the NHRS tried to keep the settlement secret. This newspaper had to file a right-to-know request to obtain it.
Aside from the system losing another half-million dollars, the settlement hardly puts the fear of repayment into the hearts of anyone else thinking of double dipping in the same way. What a blunder.