Retirement program insights

Published 2:10 pm Friday, November 15, 2019

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved, by a 7-0 vote, a request from a hazardous duty retiree to amend the guidelines for the locally funded enhanced retirement program, allowing her to receive the supplement for another year, until age 66.

Wade Bartlett

There were only seven voters because Lockett District Supervisor Robert M. “Bobby” Jones was not present at the meeting.

The details shared by County Administrator Wade Bartlett prior to the board’s vote gave insight into the county’s position with regard to providing a retirement supplement for employees who served in a hazardous duty position.

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“On June 9 of 1998, the board authorized the county to provide a locally funded Law Enforcement Supplement (LEOS) for persons retiring under the VRS (Virginia Retirement System),” Bartlett said. “At that time, it was optional for localities to provide a retirement supplement for employees — except for the sheriff, that’s always been mandated — who served in a hazardous duty position.

“On July 14 in 1998, the board adopted guidelines for that program,” he continued. “… Item 5 of those guidelines stated the supplement would cease at age 65. And that’s always happened.”

He noted that presently, the county has one retiree remaining in the program, and that retiree was born in 1954 and will reach age 65 in December when the supplement under the current regulations will cease.

“Effective 1 July of 2008, the commonwealth mandated that localities had to provide the State Police Officers Retirement System (SPORS) — it’s a little different than LEOS — benefits through VRS to each deputy sheriff and other employees in hazardous duty positions,” Bartlett said. “Right now that’s the only ones we have. Under SPORS, this supplement continues until the retiree reaches the full retirement age under Social Security. For people born in 1954, that age is 66.

“The retiree in question is requesting that the policy for the locally funded enhanced retirement program be amended to match the SPORS system, which would allow her to receive the supplement for an additional year,” he continued.

He cited that this issue has never arisen before because all previous retirees that qualified for the program had obtained full retirement age for Social Security at 65.

“Because this program was established prior to the state mandate, the county is not obligated to provide such a supplement to employees who retired prior to July 1, 2008, which this employee did,” Bartlett said.

He then addressed the cost involved in approving the request and how part of the nature of the supplement could impact that cost.

“If approved this would extend payment of the benefit until December of 2020 and would cost the county at least $14,244,” he said. “It could be more depending on if that supplement is increased anytime along the way, which usually happens around July, if it happens at all. It doesn’t always happen.”

In the board meeting packet, Bartlett provided supervisors with a copy of the locally funded LEOS supplement guidelines that the board adopted July 14, 1998.

“I spoke with the sheriff on this, and the recommendation is to approve the (retiree’s) request, change item 5 of the guidelines to read, ‘The supplement ceases upon attaining the full retirement age under Social Security’ instead of saying it ends at 65.

“This will be the last employee that will have this,” he continued. “This will not occur again. This program will cease after that because everyone else now is under the mandate of VRS.”