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Hall County to study retirement options
Committee to review plans of 1,300 county employees
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Hall County plans to study retirement plan options for its 1,300 employees.

The Hall Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to send out a request for proposals and form a committee to look at various options.

Association County Commissioners of Georgia now manages the county’s retirement plan.

Chairman Tom Oliver said Thursday’s action wasn’t meant “to say anything bad about ACCG. There just may be other opportunities out there.”

It is mainly an effort to gather more information.

“My idea is ... to look at what’s available out there and see who’s got what plans. And I know that most municipalities — cities and counties — have an internal board made up of employees, commissioners and private citizens that are part of this (process).”

Oliver and Commissioners Scott Gibbs and Craig Lutz will be part of the board.

Lutz praised Oliver on the suggestion, saying he believes such a study “is the right thing to do.”

“Obviously, we have a duty to the employees to make sure that their retirements are taken care of,” he said. “I think that taking a look at opportunities that are out there is important.”

Commissioner Billy Powell added his kudos.

“This is extremely forward-thinking,” he said. “I think we’re marching to the head of the line, if you will. My understanding is that all the counties are with ACCG, not because we have to, (but that) it’s the easiest road to travel and that’s what’s always been done.

“If we make a change, it’s going to give many more choices for employees to manage their pension funds or to have say-so in what the investment vehicles are.”

Beth Brown, spokeswoman for ACCG, said the organization’s retirement plan is optional for counties, as “one of the membership service programs we provide.”

“Currently, we have 119 counties that participate in one of the three different types of retirement programs that we offer. We have 148 jurisdictions, as water authorities, development authorities and others can opt in and become part of our program.”

In Hall, employees begin accruing retirement on their first day of employment. However, they are not vested for four years, said Nikki Young, Hall County spokeswoman.

In 2008, Hall County began a series of budget cuts in an effort to balance budgets, including a hiring freeze, employee furlough days and halting annual merit increases and retirement plan contributions.

Former County Administrator Charley Nix asked the commission in October 2010 to consider restarting county contributions to employees’ retirement accounts.

But conditions grew worse in 2011 as the county worked to make up an $11.5 million shortfall in revenues.

County staff has presented a proposed $86.4 million spending plan for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1. The budget leaves furloughs in place and continues to stave off retirement contributions.

Some members of the commission say it’s a priority to at least reduce the number of furlough days.

And Oliver said Thursday, “I trust we’re going to put some pensions back into this budget.”

 

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