LISBON - Some elected officials and part-time public employees may find they no longer qualify for 100 percent benefits when they retire because of changes in Ohio's Public Employee Retirement System.
Beginning in 2014, public employees who fall under the PERS system must be paid at least $600 a month to earn full credit toward a pension, with the number going to $1,000 per month to earn full credit to qualify for health insurance coverage upon retirement. The current threshold to qualify for both is $250 per month.
After Jan. 1, those paid less than $600 will still qualify for pension benefits, but the amount applied will be prorated. For example, if a worker governed by PERS is paid $400 a month, they will earn a 67 percent PERS credit toward their pension only. There is no such prorated benefit for health care coverage.
The changes were part of the 2012 sweeping overhaul of all five of Ohio's government employee retirement systems, including PERS, which is the largest. The changes were designed to address projected pension shortfalls attributed to the fact people today are living longer, public employees were able to retire earlier with full benefits compared to most private sector workers, and loss of pension plan investment revenue from the recession.
What this means is a number of elected officials who serve as council members, township trustees or on other boards subject to PERS may no longer qualify for a full credit. The following is a list of what some of these boards are currently paying their members:
- East Liverpool: Council members are paid $350 per month, with the exception of the council president, who is paid $375 per month. Council clerk is paid $350 per month, also, and the treasurer is paid $400 per month.
- Leetonia: Council members are paid $100 per meeting and they meet twice a month. The mayor is paid $916 per month.
- Wellsville: Council members are paid $200 per month, while the mayor is paid $769.
- East Palestine: Council members are paid $100 per month, while the mayor is paid $279.
- Salem: Council members and clerk are paid $379 per month, while the treasurer is paid $546.
- Columbiana: Council members are paid $20 per month, while the mayor is paid $325, which includes his mayor's court duties.
- Lisbon: Council members are paid $350 per month, while the mayor is paid $666. Members of the Board of Public Affairs are paid $250.
- Rogers: Council members are paid $30 per meeting, while the mayor is paid $150 per month. The village fiscal officer is paid $300 a month.
- Hanoverton: Council members are paid $39 per month, while the mayor is paid $208.
-Buckeye Water District: Board members are paid $200 a month base wage for attending monthly meetings, plus $75 extra for committee meetings, not to exceed a total of $500 per month.
- Columbiana County Port Authority: Board members are paid between $600 and $700 per month, depending on their position.
- County Elections Board: Members are paid $818 per month, but their salary is set by state law.
Townships trustees and fiscal officers in the county are also affected by the changes, but most of the fiscal officers, if not all, are currently being paid at least $1,000 per month. The following is a sample of what some of the local townships' trustees are currently being paid:
- Butler Township: $857 per month.
- Fairfield Township: $943 per month.
- Franklin Township: $707 per month.
- Liverpool Township: $857 per month.
- Madison Township: $857 per month.
- Middleton Township: $857 per month.
- Perry Township: $943 per month.
- St. Clair Township: $1,028 per month.
- Washington Township: $750 per month.
- Wayne Township: $707 per month.
- Yellow Creek Township: $707 per month.
School board members are covered by one of the other pension plans, and state law sets a maximum payment of $125 per school board meeting. It is left to each board to determine if its members are to also be paid for attending special meetings and committee meetings.
Unlike city and village councils, which have the ability to vote themselves pay raises, the salaries for township trustees and their fiscal officers are set by state law and tied to the size of their annual budgets. The larger the budget, the more they are paid, which can be affected either way by the size of the carry-over balance.
"It's based on the budget, so it can go up and down," said Madison Township Fiscal Officer Tiffany Chetock.
Lisbon Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner said public officials are not required to contribute into PERS and some councilman choose that option. When that happens, the employer is required to instead pay into the worker's Social Security.