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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. The $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

  2. $160k? Yesterday the figure was $320k. Which is it Indiana Lawyer. And even more interesting, which well connected law firm got the (I am guessing) $320k, six time was the fired chancellor received. LOL. (From yesterday's story, which I guess we were expected to forget overnight ... "According to records obtained by the Journal & Courier, Purdue spent $161,812, beginning in July 2012, in a state open records lawsuit and $168,312, beginning in April 2013, for defense in a federal lawsuit. Much of those fees were spent battling court orders to release an independent investigation by attorney John Trimble that found Purdue could have handled the forced retirement better")

  3. The numbers are harsh; 66 - 24 in the House, 40 - 10 in the Senate. And it is an idea pushed by the Democrats. Dead end? Ummm not necessarily. Just need to go big rather than go home. Nuclear option. Give it to the federal courts, the federal courts will ram this down our throats. Like that other invented right of the modern age, feticide. Rights too precious to be held up by 2000 years of civilization hang in the balance. Onward!

  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

  5. It's just an ill considered remark. The Sup Ct is inherently political, as it is a core part of government, and Marbury V Madison guaranteed that it would become ever more so Supremely thus. So her remark is meaningless and she just should have not made it.... what she could have said is that Congress is a bunch of lazys and cowards who wont do their jobs so the hard work of making laws clear, oftentimes stops with the Sups sorting things out that could have been resolved by more competent legislation. That would have been a more worthwhile remark and maybe would have had some relevance to what voters do, since voters cant affect who gets appointed to the supremely un-democratic art III courts.

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