(St.Joseph,MO) St. Joseph police officers will soon see an increase in their retirement benefits. Monday night the city council approved three bills allowing the Police Department to make adjustments to their retirement plan. The department will transfer from the city’s Police Pension Plan to the private state plan, the Missouri Local Government Employee Retirement System (LAGERS).
The switch increases the pension contribution from two percent, to two and a half percent multiplier, putting the police retirement benefits on par with other city employees.
Commander Eric Protzman served as the chairman for the Police Pension Fund and said the new plan will provide better benefits to retiring officers.
“We get two percent a year for every year we work. For years we tried to enhance that so that officers could retire without taking another job to sustain themselves. The only way we could do that was to change how our pension plan was currently operated,”Protzman said.
The adjustment won’t increase the amount officers pay into their retirement, but the requirements to receive benefits will change slightly.
Under the previous plan officers who had served in the community for 20 years were eligible for retirement. Under the LAGERS retirement plan employees are required to be at least 55 years old and have served in the community for at least five years to receive benefits.
The LAGERS plan will also offer additional coverage if an officer becomes injured while off duty.
“Our current plan does not provide a non-duty related disability benefit. If you are hurt before you reach your twenty years of service you don’t get a pension,”Protzman said.
Protzman said because officers do not receive social security benefits many of them were putting off retirement to receive additional benefits under the LAGERS plan.
“One thing a lot of people don’t understand about a police officer is because we have a police pension, we do not get a social security benefit from the federal government,” Protzman said. “Because of the way the pensions are set up, a lot of police departments don’t pay into social security, they’re not required to, so we don’t get a social security benefit.”
The LAGERS retirement plan will give officers additional benefits while reducing the city’s contribution rate from 33.8 percent to 32.2 percent. Mayor Bill McMurray said the new retirement plan will save the city approximately $120,000 a year.
“It will save the city a little bit of money because of some of the adjustment of some of the retirement age. I think it’s a good deal for everyone,” McMurray said.
Protzman said the new age requirement could be a drawback for officers that we’re approaching their 20 years of service, but the continual pension increase could make it worth staying with the department.
“It’s a half percent more for every year they work [beyond the 20 years of service], which becomes significant,” Protzman said. “It can mean the difference between paying for health coverage when you retire. It can mean being able to retire and not having to work another part time job to support your family.”
The change won’t impact the benefits of current retirees. The funds remaining in the Police Pension Plan will continue supporting those who have already retired from the St.Joseph Police Department.
The new policy will take effect on August 20 and new retirees will begin receiving benefits under the LAGERS plan by October 1.