Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sheriff’s Dept. Asks For Larger Retirement

By John Severance

SOCORRO - Sheriff Philip Montoya wants his deputies to have larger retirement plans.
He made that first step last week when a proposal to increase the Public Employees Retirement Act came to the attention of the Socorro County Commission last week.
“I am trying to increase retirement plans and there would be no extra cost to the county,” Montoya told the commissioners.
Montoya brought along PERA Deputy Director for Member Services Mary Frederick, who explained to the commissioners how the plan would work.
The proposal would incease the contribution rates for the officers and the county, but it would lower the years an officer could retire.
Right now, the employee contribution is seven percent and the county is 10.5 percent. After 25 years of service, officers would receive a monthly pension around $1,875 with a multiplying factor of 2.5 percent. And to receive the maximum benefit, officers need 40 years of service.
Frederick said if the commission would approve a change in the plan, the officers’ contribution would increase to 16.3 percent and the county would be 18.5 percent. And under the new plan, officers with 22 years and 11 months of service would reach 80 percent of their final average salary. The average pension payment would be around $2,500 under the proposed plan.
To change the plan, an election has to be held and voted on by eligible union members and the county also would have to approve a resolution for an election, Frederick said.
“If you make this change,” Frederick said, “it is irrecovable. You can’t go back.”
Commissioners Daniel Monette and R.J. Griego have been concerned for years that they have not been able to retain officers and this would definitely help, they both said.
“We train them here and then they go somewhere else for higher pay,” Monette said.
County manager Delilah Walsh said if the benefits did change, “we could recruit more experienced officers.”
Commisioner Philip Anaya then brought up the subject of how other county employees could get on the plan.
Walsh said the county could do a feasibility study regarding how much it would cost the county if such a plan was implemented.
Griego asked Walsh and her staff to come up with a resolution to change the PERA plan for the sheriff departrment employees. Walsh said a resolution could be ready for the next commission meeting on May 25.

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