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Old 09-12-2017, 06:12 AM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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WKU prepares for potential changes to pension system

In the midst of a state-wide pension crisis, WKU is looking at how potential changes to the pension system may affect employees, according to university administrators.

In an email sent to all faculty and staff, President Timothy Caboni said "we must recognize that some change is likely inevitable, and it is better for us to engage proactively in a conversation with policy-makers as they wrestle with these very complex issues rather than waiting for them to make their decisions."

"To that end, representatives from the six public universities and the KCTCS system whose employees are impacted by changes to the pension systems have been working on a set of principles that we agree are in the best interests of our institutions and our employees," Caboni said. "The collective position advocates for no change for current employees."

According to the email, this may mean that all new hires will be using a "403(b) type defined contribution plan, which is consistent with what many public universities ... currently offer."

Caboni also wrote about the Kentucky Employees Retirement System and Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System, saying "the current situation ... is unsustainable." Caboni said because of rising percentages universities contribute to retirement programs, other areas on campus, including "tuition revenue and state appropriations," are going toward contributions to pension.

"Without substantive reform, we soon may find ourselves in the untenable position of cutting campus budgets to cover our pension obligations," Caboni said. "Further, we should not balance the state pension systems on the backs of parents and students who already already are shouldering the majority of the burden of their public higher education costs."

Caboni concluded his email by saying recommendations from the state pension consultant are only recommendations and may not actually be implemented, and said the pension conversation will be ongoing at WKU.

Riley talks pensions with teachers

GLASGOW — About 250 teachers and retired teachers showed up at the Barren County High School auditorium Monday evening looking for answers about their retirement security.

They got a few — but not all they wanted from Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, a former teacher, coach and administrator at the school because Riley, like the teachers, is still waiting to see the plan.

“The governor’s office, the House and Senate leadership are all meeting trying to come up with a proposal,” Riley said. “Now, what that is, I don’t know yet.”

Riley was responding to concerns by teachers over recommendations by a consultant hired to review Kentucky’s badly underfunded public pension systems. Combined, the multiple systems face anywhere between $37 billion and $60 billion in unfunded liabilities.

The PFM Group called for significant changes to the retirement systems in Kentucky which are among the worst funded in the country, including a “claw back” of cost-of-living adjustments granted over the years and raising the retirement age to 65.

Those haven’t been well received by state employees and especially by teachers.

Gov. Matt Bevin has said he’ll call a special session this fall to enact changes. Originally, Bevin wanted lawmakers to also enact tax reform in the special session, but he’s backed off that, heeding lawmakers concerns that it’s asking too much to do both in one special session.


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