Department of Retirement Systems Updates

Benefits, Payroll and Retirement Operations wants to ensure our employees are notified of some important changes regarding their pension plans.

New DRS Employee Rates in 2015

Based on an actuarial review of the state pension plans, the Washington State Pension Funding Council approved a graduated approach to increasing member and employer contributions. This approach will spread out the impact of increased contributions over a number of years while still ensuring the impacted pension plans remain stable and robust. For employees participating in the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS), the rate will increase on July 1, 2015, from 4.92% to 6.12%. For the Public Safety Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), the employee rate will increase on July 1, 2015, from 6.36% to 6.59%. No changes are anticipated for LEOFF.  For more information on these rate changes, please click on http://www.drs.wa.gov/news-announcements/.

Change in Donated Leave

To become compliant with a Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) regulation (WAC 415-108-468), King County stopped crediting the dollar value of an employee’s donated leave to the employee’s reportable compensation  starting on the  September 4, 2014, paycheck.  In other words, DRS rules do not allow employees donated leaves to count towards their retirement when it has already earned credit for the donator. This change will ensure that compliance.

Any questions on how this impacts your service credits, please contact Kimberly Fleming at 206-263-2509.

Leaving under the 2008 Early Retirement Factors

As a reminder, employees who can still retire using the 2008 Early Retirement Factors are not eligible for re-employment unless they are willing to forgo their pension. These retirees include people who contract and provide direct services such that a 1099 would issue. In a limited audit completed by DRS earlier this year, DRS found that one former employee who came back to work for the county should have had their pension stopped. Despite this limitation, it remains a good retirement option to consider.

Gainsharing

Finally, the Washington State Supreme Court issued opinions in two cases in August related to the state’s pension systems. One case involves gainsharing provisions and early retirement benefits for members of certain state retirement plans; the other involves an annual increase for retirees in two closed pension plans (also known as the Uniform COLA or “UCOLA”).

In both cases, the court confirmed the Legislature’s authority to reserve the right to repeal or modify benefit enhancements at the time the enhancements were enacted, and to act on that reservation language at a later date. The rulings uphold the Legislature’s repeal of gainsharing in 2007 and discontinuation of the UCOLA in 2011.

One effect of the court’s ruling is to allow the continuation of benefits that were enacted in place of gainsharing, including provisions for early retirement (also known as the 2008 Early Retirement Factors, or ERFs). These provisions allow members of Plans 2/3 of PERS, TRS and SERS with 30 years of service to retire as early as age 62 without a benefit reduction. The provisions only apply to those hired prior to May 1, 2013.