If you are considering purchasing prior service credit from VRS, now is the time to make your move. VRS will be seeking a number of changes in this coming General Assembly session which, if adopted, will increase the cost and impose limits on prior service credit purchases made after January 1, 2017.
VRS is trying to simplify administration of the retirement plans by making the purchase windows uniform for Plan 1, Plan 2, and the Hybrid Plan. Remember, Plan 1 is for those hired prior to July 1, 2010. Plan 2 is for those hired on or after July 1, 2010, but before January 1, 2014. The Hybrid Plan is for those hired after January 1, 2014. The purchase window is now 3 years for Plan 1, and 1 year for Plan 2 and the Hybrid. The proposal is to have a uniform purchase window of two years for all plans. In addition, instead of paying 5% of annual salary for each year, the proposal calls for paying the "normal cost" for the plan during the purchase window. For example, the normal cost for this year is approximately 9.5% of salary (5% for the Hybrid). Outside of the window the purchase would be at the actuarial cost (25 to 30%). All types of service would be capped at four years; however, military service is treated differently. You can purchase up to 4 years of military service credit in addition to other service purchased. Refunded service will not be affected by the purchase window -- there is no limit to years repurchased and the new rate will be the amount refunded plus interest. At this point, these changes are proposals to be considered by the upcoming General Assembly.
While we are talking about VRS, JLARC reported some alarming information about the Hybrid retirement plan. This was the plan that Governor McDonnell forced through on the last day of the 2012 legislative session. Monday's report noted that, "To date, only four percent of Hybrid Plan members have elected to make voluntary contributions, and 96 percent have declined to contribute anything except the mandatory one percent of salary. The low rate of voluntary contributions to the defined-contribution component of the Hybrid Plan raises concerns that members may not have adequate savings to retire." VEA predicted this when we spoke out against the Hybrid plan. A decent retirement plan is no longer a reason to choose teaching as a career.
The 2014 ANNUAL REPORT ON THE CONDITION AND NEEDS OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN VIRGINIA provides an interesting picture of Virginia's schools. I have provided selected quotes, which may prove useful, below:
Since 2008, K-12 public education staffing has been reduced by 5,000 positions, while student enrollment has increased by 2.5 percent statewide. At the same time, on an inflation-adjusted basis, Virginia teachers saw a five percent drop in their salaries' purchasing power over the past ten years. (p. 7)
Approximately one-third of current Virginia teachers are over the age of 50 -- prime candidates for retirement. Yet, Virginia schools of education produce only about 3,800 new teachers a year. (p. 7)
... it is difficult to recruit and hire the best individuals because of limited fiscal resources and if they are successful, high turnover results in inconsistent instruction. Poorer school divisions complain of becoming a "training ground" for wealthier school divisions, with the result that teachers in those school divisions have less experience. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that starting teacher salaries between school divisions can range from $30,407 to $56,983, leading to increased competitiveness between school divisions, with some divisions forced to simply cede the playing field. Limited resources and increasing demands on teachers' time have also restricted critical professional development at the local level. (p. 20)
Virginia teacher salaries currently rank 36th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Using current unadjusted dollars, the Commonwealth ranks 38th in the percentage change in average teacher salaries from 2002-2003 to 2012-2013. Using inflation-adjusted dollars, Virginia teachers saw a five percent drop in their salaries' purchasing power over that time period. (pp. 20-21)
Every year schools are asked to do more - increasing graduation requirements, more challenging standards and new assessments, ever increasing reporting requirements from the federal and state government,and addressing home and family situations that impede children's learning to name a few -- yet are given fewer resources and personnel to meet the growing needs of K-12 education. (p.22)
Monday's JLARC report on SOQ funding offered one revealing little nugget: State SOQ spending per student in FY 2014 was 0.4 less than in FY 2013. This marginal decline is because the increase in the number of students was greater than the increase in spending.
We at VEA Government Relations and Research wish you and yours joyful holidays.