Change to public employee annuities spurs exodus in Porter County

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A northwestern Indiana judge will lose a combined 67 years of experience this month when all three of his employees retire.

Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford's executive assistant, bailiff and court reporter all are retiring Aug. 29, partly to avoid reductions in the amount of money they'll receive from their public employee retirement plan annuities, The (Munster) Times reported Sunday.

Executive assistant Julie Powell said she and her co-workers on Bradford's staff must leave now to avoid watching the returns on the annuity portions of their retirement plans fall from a guaranteed 7.5 percent to lower market-based rates under changes the Indiana Public Retirement System made nearly a year ago to reduce the possibility of unfunded liabilities.

The upcoming losses proved incentive enough to persuade the three court staffers to follow through on retirement plans even after Bradford surprised them by opting to seek a sixth term, which he'll begin in January.

"We said, 'Hey, we're in the mindset to go now,'" Powell said.

The Indiana Lawyer wrote about the pending change to the guaranteed interest rate in May.  Effective Oct. 1, the Indiana Public Retirement System will reduce the guaranteed interest rate for workers who choose to annuitize investments in their annuity savings accounts. Employees covered by the Public Employees’ Retirement Fund have 3 percent of their salary invested in those accounts and may elect to invest a greater portion of their earnings.

But the interest rate the state previously guaranteed on those annuities has proved to be unsustainable. NPRS says the change was needed because Americans are living longer and guaranteed rates of return on investment have fallen. The change has prompted units of government to alert workers about how their retirement benefits may be affected.

The loss of retirement money affects not just state and local government employees, but teachers as well. While there's no mass exodus among educators, some are calling it quits to avoid losing any money on their self-funded annuities. Teachers Dave Kenning and Judy Commers are retiring this year from the Porter County Career Center, taking with them more than 60 years of combined experience and institutional knowledge, said Jon Groth, the school's director.

Officials at the Indiana Public Retirement System project about 9,700 retirements in 2014 from the PERF and the Teachers Retirement Fund.

Porter County government is losing a total of 12 employees, including Porter County Treasurer Mike Bucko and County Highway Department Supervisor Al Hoagland.

Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski said he was unsure how many, if any, of the posts, will be left vacant in light of the County Council's call on departments in the financially strapped county to reduce their proposed budgets by 10 percent for next year.

The Porter County Public Library System is losing three employees to the PERF change, Director Jim Cline said. That's just 5 percent of the 60 full-time employees, but two of the three have worked for the library system for more than 22 years, he said.

The Valparaiso Police Department suffered a similar loss when an administrative assistant retired due to the PERF change and took 28 years of experience with her, Clerk-Treasurer Sharon Swihart said.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

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  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.