What Types of Kansas State Pensions are offered?
In the state of Kansas the largest state pension program is the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System or KPERS. Many other smaller pensions are scattered through out the state for specific public employee occupations such as police, firefighter and public teacher or university programs both private and state-funded. Though these pension programs offered detailed coverage to specific employees in designated areas, the KPERS program covers all public state employees through out the state of Kansas.
Within the KPERS system, several categories of coverage exist depending on the employees’ occupation in state employment. Categories of coverage include:
- General public state employees (KPERS Employee)
- Correctional officer employees (Correctional)
- Kansas Police and Firemen (KP&F)
- Kansas Judges (Judges)
Descriptions of KPERS Public Employee Benefits
The KPERS public employee pension currently has over 270,000 members in the fields of general state or public employees, school district employees including teachers, Kansas county and municipalities and local government authorities. Definitions of membership depend on the position held within the state:
- Non-school public employees have mandatory enrollment in KPERS. An employee qualifies if they are a permanent employee covered by social security and works at least 1,000 hours per year.
- School employees are also required to enroll in KPERS. A school employee qualifies if they are a permanent employee covered by social security and work at least 630 hours or 3 ½ per day for 180 consecutive days.
- All other public employees including elected officials may enroll optionally in KPERS.
Pension benefits are a combined contribution from employer and employee and totals are invested by the state during active employment. Once employment ends for retirement, a monthly amount is paid out to the employee. In addition, active employees also have basic life insurance and disability paid by the employer and may chose to purchase additional life insurance at no penalty to future benefits. The State also supplies each member with an extra $4,000 in death benefits that are additional to survivor benefits.
The pension is divided into Tier 1 and Tier 2 programs depending on several factors. The primary factor includes the year in which the employee was hired by the state, with Tier 1 members employed before July1, 2009 and Tier 1 after this date. Other specific factors may determine which Tier an employee qualifies for and it is best to check the Member Handbook to determine qualifications.
- Tier 1 members contribute 4% of before tax payroll to benefits
- Tier 2 members contribute 6% of pre-tax payroll to benefits
- In addition, the interest earned depends on enrollment date. Those employed before July 1, 1993 will receive 8% interest on the total amount of accumulated benefits while those employed on or after the July 1rst date receive 4% interest.
After the five year vesting period of credited service, monthly statements produced by the employer will show each member their current Tier qualifications, amount of interest and total contributions in addition to the estimated retirement benefit calculations for that period. Retirement benefits are based on the vesting years, years of total employment and final annual salary.
Regardless of Tier, a vested employee qualifies for long-term disability benefits and death benefits for survivors including health insurance.
- Tier 1 employees retire will full benefits at age 65 with at least 1 year service credit, age 62 with at least 10 years service credit or when the employees age and service credit combined equal 85 years.
- Tier 2 employees may retire at age 65 with five years of service credit or age 60 with 30 years of service credit.
Definition of Benefits for Special Categories
Judges, correctional officers, firefighters and police offers are covered under KPERS but with special circumstances due to the nature of their work. Many aspects are similar to that for general employees and teachers, but with slight differences.
- Tier 1 officers contribute 4% of payroll per-tax to benefits. Interest percentages are calculated using the same date of employment as general KPERS employees with 8% interest before July 1, 1993 and 4% interest on or after. Group A: Tier 1 may retire with full benefits after age 55 with three consecutive years of employment directly before retirement. Group B: Tier 1 employees may retire after age 50 with at least 10 years of service credit.
- Tier 2 officers contribute 6% of pre-tax payroll and interest is determined the same as Tier 1 employees. Group A: Tier 2 members may retire at age 55 with ten years of service credited, Group B: Tier 2 members may retire any time after age 50 with ten years of service. In both groups the final three consecutive years of employee must be directly before retirement.
Police and Firefighters KPERS
The Tier in which members are enrolled is determined by start date in the position although all members contribute the same 7.15% of pre-tax payroll to benefits. In addition interest is calculated at 8% for those employed before July, 1 1993 and 4% for those employed on or after that date. Benefits are calculated by number of service credit years, years of employment and final average salary and interest on contributions are calculated monthly throughout employment.
- Tier 1 members become active before July 1, 1989 and are vested at 20 years employment. Full benefit retirement is at age 55 with 20 years of service or any age after reaching 32 years of employment
- Tier 2 members became employed after July 1, 1989 and are vested at 15 years of employment. Retirement will full benefits is available at age 50 with 25 years of service only
Disability for both Tiers may also include additional benefits for qualifying member’s minor children. Death benefits payable to survivors include occupational and non-occupational benefits however an occupational death will qualify survivors for 50% of the benefits the member would have received for life.
Cost of Living and inflation protection and what is the level for 2012, 2013 and 2014
Retirees in any category of KPERS do not receive a COLA interest increase therefore the state suggests purchasing additional private retirement benefits such as 401K and creating a savings account plan for personal use, which will not penalize the KPERS members.