South Carolina police officers and firefighters will have to pay more towards their retirement under a plan approved by a state agency Wednesday. The Public Employee Benefits Authority (PEBA) voted unanimously to increase the amount that first responders have to contribute towards their pension each year. The proposal still has to be approved by the Budget & Control Board.
The Police Officers Retirement System (PORS) is separate from other state employees. Under a new law passed earlier this year, its retirees are now guaranteed a one percent “cost-of-living” adjustment each year. However, actuaries looking at the system told state officials that the COLA adjustment would cause PORS’s potential debt to exceed state guidelines.
As a result, PEBA voted Wednesday to raise officers’ contribution rates to 7.84 percent from 7.5 percent starting in July 2013. That would average about $126 more per employee. The cities and counties that employ them would also contribute 12.84 percent, rather than 12.5 percent.
One group that represents law enforcement said it had not been expecting the move. “It doesn’t sound like a lot of money. But when you’re talking about somebody that doesn’t make a lot of money, it’s significant,” said Jeff Moore, the executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association.
Moore said he would have preferred that the increase take effect over two years, rather than all at once. He said such an accomodation was made for members of the Judges and Solicitors Retirement System.
The rates for both employee and employer will increase again in two years, to 8 percent for employees and 13 percent for state and local governments.
PEBA is a new entity created as part of a pension reform bill in June. It is made up of 11 members– three chosen by the governor and the rest by legislative leaders. The board is also required to consist of four current or retired state employees. Any of its recommendations must be considered by the state Budget and Control Board.