Faculty Senate discusses concerns about state pension reform system

By Andrea Azzo

The Faculty Senate discussed their concerns about the state pension reform system during their Wednesday meeting.

NIU President John Peters sent an email to his colleagues Oct. 25 about Senate Bill 512 (SB 512) Reform Bill.

“The very livelihood of NIU’s pension participants is placed at risk” under the proposed reforms, Peters wrote in the email.

The reforms would require members in the retirement system, including university employees, to choose between three different retirement plans by July 1.

“[Legislators] are talking about this even if it’s not in the news yet,” said Therese Arado, chair for the elections and legislative oversight committee.

The three plans are the traditional defined benefit plan (Tier 1), revised defined benefit plan (Tier 2) and the self-managed plan (Tier 3). If members do not choose one of the three, he or she will be automatically enrolled in Tier 2, according to SB 512.

Tier 1 is the system currently in use, but it will have higher employee contributions under SB 512. Faculty Senate Chair Alan Rosenbaum said the benefits employees have received already will not change.

The contributions will be recalculated after the initial three years, according to SB 512.

With Tier 1, contributions can go up substantially, Rosenbaum said, It may go as high as 15.31 percent.

Tiers 2 and 3 will have a six percent contribution. However, Tier 3 will constitute a 50/50 split of the normal cost of the Tier 2 plan for the State Employees’ Retirement System members that are covered by Social Security, according to SB 512.

“If you’ve been watching the stocks lately, Tier 3 will probably not contribute to you sleeping well at night,” Rosenbaum said.

Tier 2 has a cap salary of $106,000 per year and requires employees to work until the age of 67, Rosenbaum said.

Arado said bills like SB 512 can move through legislation pretty quickly.

“Across the board, this is really affecting us,” she said.