Fairfax board to vote on raising minimum retirement age

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering major changes to its employee retirement systems, including raising the minimum retirement age, in an effort to combat the growing cost of pensions.

The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on revisions that would raise the minimum retirement age from 50 to 55, cap unused sick leave at 2,080 hours, raise the "Rule of 80," which uses age and years of service to determine when an employee can retire, to the "Rule of 85," and other measures.

The changes would apply only to new hires beginning in 2013.

Fairfax's retirement system
Government employees:
• Employees contribute between 4 and 5.33 percent.
• The county contributes 19.05 percent.
• Employees get between 1.8 and 2 percent of their average salary, multiplied by the number of years they served and increased by 3 percent.SClB• With a salary of $75,000, employees getting 2 percent for 30 years of employment = $46,350
Uniformed Retirement System (including the Fire and Rescue Department and Sheriff's Office):
• Employees contribute 7.08 percent.
• The county contributes 35 percent.
• Employees get 2.5 percent of their average salary, multiplied by the number of years they served and increased by 3 percent.SClB• With a salary of $75,000, employees getting 2.5 percent for 30 years of employment = $57,937.50
Police Officers Retirement System:
• Employees contribute 10 percent.
• The county contributes 33.15 percent.
• Employees get 2.8 percent of their average salary, multiplied by the number of years they served and increased by 3 percent.SClB• With a salary of $75,000, employees getting 2.8 percent for 30 years of employment = $64,890

The moves would save the county $602,000 in fiscal 2015 and $11.5 million in fiscal 2027 as the changes take hold across its three retirement systems, a board report found.

"Pension costs are creating huge problems" for all levels of government, said Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield. "This needs to be done."

Supervisor Penny Gross, D-Mason, said she supports the changes, which were recommended by a consultant who studied the retirement systems.

"The whole point was to see if we were being overly generous or if we were in line with other systems," Gross said. "We learned we needed to tweak a few aspects."

Chairman Sharon Bulova said the county decided to stay with a pension program rather than a 401(k)-type defined-contribution plan to build an employment system where people can work for their entire careers.

"If we were a organization where people were frequently coming and going, a defined-contribution system would have benefited us," Bulova said. "But this is more cost-effective for us."

Representatives of the three retirement systems, as well as the Fraternal Order of Police and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Retirement Association, would not comment on the changes.

Beginning about 4 p.m., the board will hold a public hearing before voting.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner