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Retirement for teachers may change

POSTED: October 22, 2008 5:01 a.m.

ATLANTA — A proposed change to the way Georgia doles out teacher pensions has retired educators angry that the state wants to change a 40-year-old policy on cost-of-living adjustments.

The Teachers Retirement System of Georgia is considering giving its board the power to decide how much pension payments should increase each year, which would halt a long-standing policy that guarantees 1.5 percent increases twice a year.

The governor’s office suggested the change out of concern that the retirement fund won’t always be as financially stable as it is now. The fund has about $50 billion in assets and is 94 percent solvent, which means it has enough money on hand to meet nearly all its payment obligations to members if all of them retired at the same time.

"These are volatile economic times," said Bert Brantley, spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue. "There has to be some consideration for managing the fund for the long-term and not just granting cost-of-living adjustments without consideration of the impact on future funds."

But critics say the move would shortchange retired educators who paid into the pension plans their entire careers. And educators worry that the new policy is a way for the state to not give cost-of-living adjustments that are already too meager to keep up with inflation.

"They ought to leave it alone," said Ella Brooks of Gainesville, who is retired from the Hall County school system. "We don’t get enough as it is."

Brooks said that despite e-mails from the retired teachers association urging her to contact her legislators, she has not.

"I’m more concerned about the teachers who are teaching now," she said. "There are too many people who are out there without a job, and I just didn’t have the heart to complain."

The board is scheduled to vote on the proposal at a Nov. 19 meeting.

The retirement fund was set up in 1943 for employees of the state’s public school districts, technical schools, colleges and universities. During the fiscal year that ended July 1, nearly 80,000 retirees drew $2.4 billion in payments from the pension program.



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