What Types of Arkansas State Pensions are offered?
Arkansas offers seven different pensions programs for its state employees. The main two programs are the Teacher Retirement System, which is the state’s largest pension plan, intended for employees of the Arkansas public educational system, and the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System, which covers all general state employees. Along with these two programs, the state also offers a number of specialized pension plans for other groups of government employees.
As of 2013, Arkansas’s 2013 pensions programs were funded at a level of 72.5%, which decreased from the previous year’s mark of 75%. The recommended federal funding ratio is 80% for state-funded pensions.
TRS Requirement and Benefits
The TRS is available to all state employees who are employed in a public educational field.
- TRS members may be either contributory or noncontributory members. Contributory members contribute an additional 6% of their salary to their eventual retirement benefit. Both types of membership become vested after five years of creditable service.
- The standard retirement age for TRS members is 60, with a minimum of 5 accumulated years of creditable service. Members with 25 – 27 years of creditable service may retire at any age, but must receive reduced monthly benefits. Members with 28 or more years of creditable service may retire at any age with full monthly benefits.
- Active members of the TRS may purchase additional service credit in qualifying situations. These situations include military or National Guard duty, private school service, sabbatical leave, and certain forms of out-of-state public service. The TRS may be contacted to find out if certain acts of service may be converted into TRS service credit.
- Survivor benefits are available for both spouses and dependent children. The benefits continue for the duration of the beneficiary’s lifetime. Amount of benefits depends on the annuity option selected at the time of retirement – ranging from 100% to 50% of retirement benefits.
- The TRS offers simple Cost of Living Adjustments, which are only available to retirees who have been on ATRS payroll for at least a year. COLAs are paid out on July 1st of every fiscal year.
APERS Requirement and Benefits
The APERS program is available to all Arkansas state employees. Members of public groups that are not necessarily state-funded may also apply to be included in the program.
- APERS members are required to contribute 5% of their gross salary. Some employers also match these contributions with an additional 5%
- The standard age for APERS retirement is 65, with at least 5 years of creditable service accumulated. APERS members may also retire at any age if they have accumulated at least 28 years of creditable service. Members with at least 25 years of creditable service may retire early, in exchange for a reduced monthly benefit. All members are considered vested after performing 5 years of creditable service.
- APERS members may purchase additional service credits for active military or National Guard duty, loss of time due to a Worker’s Compensation injury, educational leave time, or qualifying federal or out-of-state public employment.
- In the event of a member’s death, the APERS will pay spousal benefits of a minimum of 10% of the member’s retirement benefit. Depending on the member’s selected annuity program, this amount may be greater than 10%.
- All retirees who have at least 1 year of creditable service will receive a Cost of Living Adjustment, in addition to their regular monthly benefit. The annual COLA is a 3% increase in retirement benefits and takes effect every July 1st.
Deferred Retirement Option
The APERS also provides a deferred retirement option for members who have reached the standard retirement requirements, but wish to continue employment with the state. Under this program, employees can work an additional 7 years while already accumulating their retirement benefits.
- Members are eligible to participate once they have accumulated at least 28 years of creditable service.
- While members continue to work, their retirement benefits accumulate in a separate account, plus tax-deferred interest.
- At the termination of employment, the member will continue to collect monthly retirement benefits as agreed, but will also receive the accumulated DROP benefits in either a lump sum payment or additional monthly payment amount.
- DROP members are entitled to the same standard COLA adjustments as all other APERS members.
Other Arkansas Pension Plans
There are several other pension plans that are available to specialized groups of Arkansas state employees.
The Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System also administers the Judicial Retirement Plan and the State Police Retirement Plan.
The Judicial Retirement Plan is offered to all state justices and judges, whether elected or appointed. Members of the JRP plan contribute 6% of their pretax salary to their retirement benefits. Judges may retire after attaining ten years of creditable service and reaching age 65. A judge with 25 years of creditable service may retire at any age.
The State Police Retirement Plan only applies to active State Police officers and directors. All other administrative functions within the department are covered with the APERS general pension plan. The SPRP contains survivor and disability options, in the event that an officer is killed or injured in the line of duty. Vestment occurs after 5 years of service, and the standard retirement age is 50.
Local police officers and firefighters who are not eligible for the SPRP may instead participate in the Local Police and Fire Retirement System. This pension plan requires its members to contribute at a rate of 8.5%. Volunteer or other non-qualifying public service does not contribute to the pension plan. The standard age of retirement for members of the LOPFI is 55, though there are several provisions for early retirement if the required years of public service are reached. Vestment occurs after 5 years of creditable service. The LOPFI also provides survivor benefits to beneficiaries of officers killed in the line of duty, though these benefits vary, depending on the annuity selected by the individual member.
More information about these plans may be obtained from their administrating bodies.