The discussion on a revised retirement policy for county employees continued during the Jan. 28 meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors. A previous discussion earlier in the month drew numerous comments and suggestions from several county employees, prompting the continuation of the discussion.
Board Chair Ed Noonan opened the discussion by presenting a proposal for the policy, which called for a retiree to be at least 55 years of age, and at that age, if the worker had 30 years of service to the county, they would receive three years of paid single health insurance coverage. If the worker had 20 years of service to the county, they would receive two years of single health insurance county. The insurance payment would be capped at $600 per month.
When asked how the proposal had been conceived, Noonan replied an informal committee of two supervisors and two county officers had gotten together to develop the policy.
"I think that's a good plan," observed Supervisor Craig Merrill.
"I read it, I think its very fair," agreed Supervisor Keith Wirtz.
According to County Auditor Carmen Moser, the plan would go into effect July 1, 2014 for those employees 55 years of age or older. "Under both of those scenarios, it catches five employees that have 30 years and five employees that have 20 years."
"These are single coverage for insurance, and 20 or 30 years of full-time continual service to the county, right?" Merrill reiterated.
"Yes," Moser answered. "You would have to have these provisions spelled out in the agreement and have the county attorney draft a new policy."
"If we do that, then we would just rescind the old policy and replace it with this one," Noonan said.
"And, this one does not have anything about the IPERS (Iowa Public Employees Retirement System) Rule of 88," Moser added.
The IPERS Rule of 88 allows for a person's age and years of service to be added together, and if that total is 88, the person may retire at that point.
Sheriff Lynn Schultes spoke up, reminding the board members that law enforcement personnel have a differing retirement provision in the Iowa Code that allows them to retire at the age of 50 with 22 years of service.
A second proposal from Supervisor Ron Graettinger was also discussed, which featured early retirement for anyone meeting the requirements of the policy. If they did so, they could receive health insurance for two years up to age 65, if they worked for Palo Alto County for 20 years; either had to meet the IPERS Rule of 88 or be 63 years of age; and be 55 years old by the end of 2014; those qualifying under the old policy must decide if they wish to retire by Dec. 31, 2014.
Schultes was asked how many employees of the sheriff's office would qualify for the early retirement policy.
"Dan (Jackson), Joy Currans, Roger Reed and myself," Schultes answered. "That's just in the sheriff's office. We all have 20 years service."
As the discussion continued, the IPERS Rule of 88 caused more questions, and Noonan asked how many more employees could potentially qualify for early retirement with the IPERS rule, Moser answered she would have to re-check the personnel files.
"Can we get an idea of what this would cost us?" Supervisor Linus Solberg asked. "Has anybody penciled this out?"
Moser answered the policy would cost the county $21,600 per person for three years, or $7,200 a year.
"I don't think some of them will take this," Solberg said. "No other county around us has this."
The topic turned to the current policy, and a concern over retired employees having their benefits cut was raised.
"I don't think this will affect them at all," Merrill answered. "They're going to lose their dental, that's all. The other, we can't change that."
An exception for law enforcement officers retiring at age 50 was also discussed for addition to the policy and no objections were heard to that idea.
dental benefits being paid to retirees, which had never been specified in the policy.
Schultes then re-address the dental discussion. "There are current retired employees that receive dental coverage and if you are going to cut the dental, I'm going to need a copy of your decision to cut that benefit to send to those retired employees that are getting it."
The board and County Attorney Lyssa Henderson agreed to do so.
"Carmen and I are going to be sending a letter to those people who are affected by the cut explaining that those benefits are not going to be paid any longer and that they shouldn't have been paid to start with," Henderson said. "We'll include a copy of the policy and specify it was for medical only and that they can get dental under the COBRA act."
The discussion wound down with Henderson being directed to finalize the draft of the policy, specifying continuous years of service for employees and setting the benefit at 20 years of service and two years of insurance payments. When the final draft is completed, the board will act on the proposal.