- Associated Press - Monday, August 8, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - A former neurosurgeon has replaced former University of Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti as the state’s top public pension recipient.

Dr. Johnny Delashaw receives an annual benefit of $663,354 a year - $55,279.53 a month - from the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System, the agency’s latest data show. That’s 24 percent higher than Bellotti’s annual benefit of $536,995, The Register-Guard reported (https://goo.gl/NwddKi).

Delashaw was a neurosurgeon at Portland’s Oregon Health and Science University for 20 years. Known for expertise in skull base, pituitary and cerebrovascular surgery, he began to claim his PERS pension last September. He now works for the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, part of Seattle’s largest hospital chain, the Swedish Medical Center.

Bellotti had been Oregon’s top PERS beneficiary since the retirement agency started releasing data in late 2011, following a lawsuit by two Oregon newspapers to make the information public.

Delashaw’s Oregon pension is calculated primarily on his final salary, $1.8 million, and years of service to the state. His annual pension is equal to 37 percent of his final annual salary, well below the PERS average of roughly 75 percent.

The pension is funded by public agency or agencies - schools, local governments or state agencies - for whom the recipient worked. Oregon’s schools and state and local governments are bracing for large hikes in their mandatory contributions to the PERS system after anemic investment returns and the Oregon Supreme Court tossing out some cost-curbing changes last year.

Last week, the PERS actuary released calculations that show Oregon public agencies will have to take on an extra $885 million in pension costs in the 2017-19 biennium, a 44 percent increase.

The top PERS beneficiaries are outliers, although the number of retirees collecting six-figure annual pensions has risen to 1,586 people, almost double the 837 pensions above that threshold in late 2011. The average annual system-wide annual benefit is $29,721 a year; the median is $23,500 annually.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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