Retirements Spike Among Kentucky's Public Employees Amid Proposed Pension Changes

Sep 15, 2017

The number of Kentuckians who plan to retire from state and local government this month is up nearly 38 percent from September of last year.  Some state legislators and advocates for public workers fear many of them made their decisions prematurely.

Data released Thursday by the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Trustees shows that about 750 public employees will retire this month. The average number of September retirements over the past four years was around 550.

In many cases, the exodus has been spurred by recommended changes to the state’s pension plans.  State Representative Wilson Stone of Scottsville calls the situation unfortunate.

"This changes their life course when we didn't intend to do that and shouldn't have," Stone told WKU Public Radio.  "It also takes people from paying into the retirement system into being part of the retirement system on the other end, so it hurts what we're trying to do."

Wilson is also concerned the retirements will leave local and state agencies without more experienced, veteran employees. 

Jim Carroll, president of the Kentucky Government Retirees' group, says for those who have not yet earned their full benefits, once they make a decision to retire, there's no going back.

"It would be unwise to make an irrevocable decision unless you are certain it makes sense from a financial standpoint. I don't know how you can make a decision from a financial standpoint until you have some numbers to compare it to," Carroll said.  "There are no changes in benefits today, there won't be tomorrow, so for those who haven't reached full retirement, I personally think it's unwise to make that decision."

Consultants have suggested raising the retirement age, moving from a defined benefit to a 401-K style plan, and reversing cost-of-living adjustments for some current retirees. 

At a town hall on pensions in Bowling Green this week, some lawmakers said many of the recommended changes will not clear the General Assembly, especially for those already in the system.