The Associated Press
SALEM For the fourth year in a row, the state pensions doled out to new retirees have dipped, according to a new Public Employees Retirement System study.
According to the study, the average pension granted to last year's crop of retirees was $27,514, the lowest since 1997. That was enough to replace about half of workers' salaries before retirement.
The reduced amounts are largely due to reforms to the pension system passed during the 2003 legislative session, which reduced pensions for recent retirees, clipped the expected pensions of existing workers and created a slimmed-down pension for future hires.
Retirees who had spent 30 years working for the state, cities, counties or school districts, still get an average pension of $47,238. While that figure is the lowest it has been since 1999, it's still generous compared with other public pension funds across the country and those granted by the private sector.
But just a few years ago, PERS routinely granted pensions to 30-year members that equaled or even topped their final salaries.
"It's very obvious we are in a period of transition," said Paul Cleary, the PERS executive director.
Younger workers should not count on getting PERS pensions equaling 80 percent to 100 percent of their salary, Cleary said.
Sherry DeForest, an office manager at Clear Lake Elementary School in Keizer, said she's worried that pensions will continue to fall. If she could get a pension equaling 84 percent of her salary, "I'm going to take it and run," she said.
She said she'd still have to take another job, to cover an $800-per-month bill for health insurance.