Public workers to pay more in 2015 to maintain retirement benefits
South Carolina's public workers will again pay slightly more of their salary to maintain their retirement benefits.
The Budget and Control Board last week unanimously approved increasing the contribution rates for both employees and their public employers, starting July 1, 2015.
More than 224,000 employees across South Carolina contribute to the state's five separate retirement systems.
Workers in the main benefit system will see 8.16 percent of their salaries deducted, up from 8 percent. The schools, colleges, agencies and local governments they work for also must contribute an additional 0.16 percent, to 11.06 percent. Those increases are funded by taxpayers.
Contribution rates for law enforcement officers and firefighters, and their employers, will rise by 0.33 percent. First responders will see 8.74 percent of their salaries deducted, while their employers - through taxpayers - will pay 13.74 percent.
A 2012 law required nearly all public workers to pay more, as part of changes meant to keep the state's pension systems solvent for decades to come. Among other changes, it called for a phased-in, 1.5 percentage-point increase, with the last increase to 8 percent slated to start July 1.
But consultants have again warned the law's scheduled increases aren't enough to sustain the systems. The law requires increases to be split between employees and their taxpayer-funded employers. Those in the Police Officers Retirement System have already seen their rates rise higher than set in the law.
The Budget and Control Board's actions Tuesday adopted recommendations from the Public Employee Benefit Authority, which the reform law created. Its duties include periodic evaluations.
First responders aren't the only group with their own pension plan and different benefits.
The National Guard, judges and prosecutors, and legislators elected before 2012 also have separate systems. The reform law closed the legislative system, forcing newly elected legislators to participate in the main employee plan.
The state's 12,000 National Guard service members don't contribute toward their pensions. The votes on Wednesday mean taxpayers will contribute just $5,000 more toward their retirement, while the legislative system will need an additional $226,000.
No changes were needed in the benefits system for the state's judges and prosecutors. Their contribution rate is set by law at 10 percent of their salaries.
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