Langbehn: Pension path for waste district employees not yet chosen

2013-08-15T21:30:00Z 2013-08-16T14:03:04Z Langbehn: Pension path for waste district employees not yet chosenMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
August 15, 2013 9:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The path and funding mechanism for possible Lake County solid waste district employee pensions have not yet been decided, the district's top employee said Thursday.

District Executive Director Jeff Langbehn said he was angered by reports that he claims led people to believe that a waste district board committee had decided to use $249,000 in newly acquired income tax revenues to fund the pension plan.

Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board Chairman David Hamm told The Times earlier this week that a committee of district board members had proposed using the local option income tax revenues to help fund the pension proposal.

Langbehn said Thursday that nothing has been officially decided, a fact explained in The Times' previous reports.

"Nobody's asking for nothing yet," Langbehn told a meeting of the district's board.

Members of the committee who spoke at the Thursday meeting, including Lowell Town Councilman Phil Kuiper, said the committee is looking into offering the Indiana Public Employees' Retirement Fund, or PERF, to waste district employees.

District employees currently are offered an IRA-type retirement plan, not PERF.

Committee members said Thursday that the $249,000 that had been proposed for the pension plan in 2014 could have helped fund state pensions for the district's eight employees, including Langbehn, retroactive to their years of service with the district.

Kuiper said the committee determined that for district employees to receive pensions through PERF — vested retroactively to their full years of service — it would cost about $500,000 within the first two years of participation in the state's plan.

But Lake County Councilwoman Christine Cid, who sits on the waste district board, questioned the use of taxpayer dollars for retroactive employee pensions.

"I have to buy PERF years with my own dollars, not taxpayer dollars," Cid said. "I have an issue with this."

Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa, who also sits on the district board, said if the district wants to enroll its employees in the state government's pension plan, it should consider doing so without paying the retroactive benefits into the state plan.

Under that option, district employees' state pension benefits would begin from the time they and the district begin paying into the plan, not retroactive to the dates they were hired.

Some board members, including Ryfa, expressed disapproval earlier this week when they learned a line item in the proposed 2014 district budget would have used the income tax money to fund the pension proposal.

Langbehn said members of the committee will continue to discuss various pension options. He also pointed out that employees in other county departments participate in PERF.

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