Some Missouri educators’ pension payments may be changing in the near future.

“We are struggling and don’t know what to tell our staff,” Dr. Aaron Zalis, deputy superintendent of Rolla Public Schools, said at the Nov. 13 Board of Education meeting.


Some Missouri educators’ pension payments may be changing in the near future.
“We are struggling and don’t know what to tell our staff,” Dr. Aaron Zalis, deputy superintendent of Rolla Public Schools, said at the Nov. 13 Board of Education meeting.
Districts are struggling because the Social Security Administration has decided to change a long standing policy on where public school employees make their retirement payments.
In 1956, the Public School Retirement System voted to be excluded from Social Security coverage that had been established with the SSA under the Social Security Act of 1951.
The PSRS had to go into agreement with the individual school districts. The PSRS became the provider of school retirement money.
Originally positions exempted from social security payments included anyone who was a teacher, teacher-secretary, substitute teacher, supervisor, principal, supervising principal, superintendent, assistant superintendent, nurse or librarian and held a teaching certificate from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
After 1984, Missouri statues were changed to include individuals in PSRS who were employed by the districts working at least 17 hours on a regular basis and were certified by DESE in any position.
That expansion of PSRS benefits is being rescinded and the SSA is wanting to exempt only the original positions that were exempt.
Administration officials are confused by the timing of the change, since, according to Superintendent Dr. Jerry Giger, in 2006 the SSA continued to endorse the current system.
“Here we have had a system that has been working for 43 years without any complaints as far as I am aware of,” Giger said.
Officials are opposed to the shrinking definition of who is exempt.
“To them, they are defining it the way it should have been, which is a narrow definition,” Zalis said in an interview after the meeting.
“We are talking about definitions that were made in the 1940s and the 1960s,” said Jeremy Jamison, a counselor at Rolla Junior High.
Jamison said he had reason to be nervous. Until recently, counselors were not exempt. Their exempt status had just been approved according to the Missouri Office of Administration Web site.
This however only applies to counselors with a DESE certificate.
The change is set for July 1, 2009, a date that Giger said is not enough time to review all the positions that this could affect.
The change does not affect who is eligible for PSRS. It changes however who is exempt from Social Security and how much money they pay to it and PSRS.
Currently, district employees pay 13.5% of their salary to PSRS, which the district then matches.
However, if the change is made, employees who are not exempt from Social Security, will have to pay 15% of their salary, two-thirds of which will go to PSRS and one-third to Social Security.
"Some people will be making payments into Social Security, that they won’t collect,” Zalis said at the board meeting.
The reason for that is that it takes a certain number of years to collect social security, something a lot of teachers will not have reached according to Zalis.
All of the positions that will be affected is not yet known, but according to a presentation Zalis gave at the Nov. 13 school board meeting, some positions that could be affected include vocational teachers, transportation employees and office administration employees.
Added to that, employees who are paid extra in secondary positions, such as a coach, who are not exempt, will have to make social security payments on the extra money they make from secondary positions, according to Zalis.
There is opposition forming against the change.
At the Newburg Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Superintendent Mike Bumgarner expressed his opposition.
Missouri Representatives Sam Graves, Ike Skelton, Russ Carnahan, Jo Ann Emerson, Todd Akin, Emanuel Cleaver and William Clay Jr., along with Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Christopher Bond, sent a letter requesting that both Mike Astrue, the commissioner of Social Security, and Doug Shulman, the commissioner of Internal Revenue, explain the reason and with what authority the changes are being made.
The Congressional members also are requesting to be informed of what impact the changes will have.
In the letter the Congressional members said that the changes are based on a narrow interpretation and without regard for “four decades of actual practice in Missouri.”
The opposition is giving Zalis reason to hope that the change will not come at all.
“Hopefully, logic will prevail,” Zalis said in an interview after the meeting.