Part-time employees in the Loudoun County Public School system breathed a sigh of relief when they were grandfathered past a new policy that provides no health benefits for employees working under 20 hours a week.
But while current employees won a victory there, many are still reeling at the prospect of a new retirement plan that will take effect July 1, 2014.
Currently, Loudoun County offers health care subsidies for retirees based on their years of service. The new plan will offer a flat rate of $650.43 for retirees with 15 years of service for health care. Originally slated to take effect in December, the plan will take place at the conclusion of the next school year.
While the $650.43 rate covers the cost of health care for a single retiree, it will force those with dependents or spouses to pay an additional premium. A family plan under the OAP would result in a premium of $975.68 (if the employee is under 65); a retiree plus spouse plan with both people under 65 will result in an additional $650.43 per month premium.
Additionally, no new employees will receive subsidies upon retirement; rather, they will have a tax deferred account to deposit money into for health care.
Those who retire prior to July 1 will remain under the old benefit system.
E. Leigh Burden, assistant superintendent of business and financial services, explained the decision.
“We can't pull the rug out from those who are already retired,” she said.
According to Wayde Byard, public information officer for LCPS, the transition in health care benefits for retirees will save the county $22 million annually, with the cost of liability down from $34 million to $12 million.
Opponents of the new measure warn of an exodus of teachers eligible for retirement at the conclusion of the 2013-2014 school year.
"I think those that are on the border [of retirement] will leave," said Joey Matthews, president of the Loudoun Education Association. "I'm just glad to see that the Board decided to wait until July 1."
Ultimately, Matthews hopes they will reconsider the decision in the next year.
Similarly, opponents warn of teachers moving to neighboring districts.
Despite the criticism, Loudoun still measures up similarly as compared to Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William Public Schools.
In Fairfax, full-time educators qualify for the Educational Employees' Supplementary Retirement System of Fairfax County, or the ERFC. Retirees with 60 consecutive months of health care as active employees that are over 55 receive a $100 subsidy, regardless of the type of plan. For those without medicare on a PPO, rates can range from $481 for an individual to $1,352.86 for a family.
In Prince William, retirees convert unused sick days from the course of their career to subsidies. The max conversion is 275 days of sick leave to receive a 100 percent medical subsidy, which leaves the employee to pay $218.60 of the $562.36 health care cost per month. Unlike Loudoun and Fairfax, retirees are ineligible for subsidies once they are eligible for Medicare at age 65.
Arlington County boasts percentage based coverage. For retirees who have more than 20 years of service, Arlington County Public Schools will cover 72 percent of their individual Cigna health care or 77 percent of their Kaiser health care.
Additionally, retirees from across the state are eligible for benefits from the Virginia Retirement System. Those retirees who have worked more than 15 years can receive $4 for every year of employment per month.
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