Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 19, 2013

Pension proposal strips Kentucky public workers to base pay

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — A proposal before the Kentucky legislature to exclude all but base pay from the formula to calculate retirement benefits for several classes of Kentucky public workers has some of those workers upset.

Senate Bill 144, introduced last week by Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, places the limits on teachers, state troopers, firefighters and other public workers.

It excludes from the retirement formula such previously included payments such as overtime, compensatory time, lump sum payments for unused sick days and certain other benefits.

The sick-pay issue and overtime are particularly problematic, workers say.

Although upon retirement they still would be able to cash in their unused sick days for about a third of they pay they would have received, the amount would not be included in calculating their retirement benefits.

And that, said Eastern Kentucky Education Association president Merry Berry, would drive teachers to go ahead and use up the sick days instead of banking them.

“You’re going to see people taking every sick day they can get,” Berry said.

The result would be more substitutes in the classroom. “We have good substitutes but no substitute can do the job a regular classroom teacher can do,” she said.

Firefighters are worried about their overtime, some of which is built into their regular schedules, said International Association of Firefighters state president Joey Baer.

Firefighters typically work on a 24-hour on, 48-hour off schedule, which adds up to 2,912 hours per year, he said. That is more than the 2,080 hours per year in a typical 40 hour per week job, he said, and the way he reads the bill, the extra hours won’t count.

Firefighters, who typically retire in their mid-50s, count on overtime to be figured into their retirement pay and if that stops, will feel forced to continue working into their 60s, he said.

That would be bad for them and bad for their communities as their physical abilities lessen, he said.

Baer foresees more worker’s compensation claims. “Firefighting is a young man’s job.”

Some teachers worry that extra duty pay, such as for coaching or extended school services, also will be excluded from retirement consideration.

That is not the case, McDaniel said. The original language of the bill appears to suggest the exclusion, but the bill will be clarified to include such duties, he said.

“This bill will not go forward without amendments,” he said.

McDaniel also said the bill does in fact allow overtime that hazardous duty workers accrue. The summary version of the bill on the Kentucky Legislature’s website does not reflect the inclusion but the full bill does, he said.

He said he introduced the bill because different workplaces have different policies and the bill would standardize them.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2652.