• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Hawkins reacts to teacher pension proposal in Senate

A pension plan proposal being discussed in the state Senate to eliminate Kentucky’s unfunded multi-billion dollar pension liabilities makes some positive changes compared to what was proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin last year, according to Woodford County schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins. However, he said Senate Bill 1 does not maintain a defined-benefit plan for teachers.

Instead of the 401(k)-style retirement plan in Bevin’s proposal, Senate Bill 1 proposes cash-balance retirement accounts for new teachers.

“So while it is better than what the governor proposed,” said Hawkins, “it’s not as good as what we proposed,” in a shared responsibility plan endorsed by educators and school administrators. They want to maintain a defined-benefit pension plan for teachers.

And while Hawkins described Senate Bill 1 as being “much, much better” than what Bevin endorsed, he said there are still some issues that need to be addressed.

Under Senate Bill 1, local school districts would contribute 2 percent of the payroll for its new teachers into cash-balance retirement accounts.

“There will be an impact and it will be an impact on every school district in Kentucky,” said Hawkins. He said the only positive about the change is the increase will only occur for new teachers. That will give districts time to prepare, “but it’s going to impact everybody’s budget,” he added.

Not having a defined-benefit pension plan for new teachers will be problematic, according to Hawkins. Implementing a retirement age of 57 for teachers also concerns him, he said.

Also, a proposed cost-of-living reduction for current retirees in Senate Bill 1 cuts those raises from 1.5 to .75 percent. “So I don’t think that’s a fair thing,” Hawkins said.

Finally, the proposed elimination of the inviolable contract for all new teachers also concerns Hawkins because changes can be made to their pension plan at some point in the future.

Hawkins said he will meet with teachers to discuss proposed changes to the pension plan after the issue comes out of the Senate and moves onto the House. “One thing that I have consistently heard from the House side of things,” he added, “is they want time to be able let their constituents see what the bill is going to be.”

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