College makes changes to retirement plans

SHERIDAN — During a second reading of revisions to the Sheridan College retirement policy Thursday night, members of the public and the board expressed concerns about the negative impact the proposed changes would have on some senior members of the faculty.

The retirement policy currently in place allows for employees hired after July 1, 2007, to apply for voluntary early retirement three years before they become entitled to full Social Security benefits.

Though you can retire at any time after age 62, the age at which a person is eligible for unreduced retirement benefits varies based on the year you were born and if you start benefits early, they are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before “full retirement age.”

The ability to retire prior to that age and have your income subsidized by payments from the college was a benefit added to make the employment package at the college more enticing at a time in which salaries were much lower than the industry norm.

Employees could earn compensation equal to a maximum of 180 percent of their contracted salary at the time of their retirement which would be paid out to them in equal payments over a five-year period.

During last month’s board meeting, an amendment to the retirement policy was approved with a few key changes: early retirement must be taken at least five years prior to full retirement age instead of three, and the maximum amount of deferred compensation possible was reduced from 180 to 100 percent of contract salary amount.

Northern Wyoming Community College District President Dr. Paul Young said over the past decade the administration and board have worked hard to ensure salaries are at or above market averages to attract the talent the college needs. He added that recruitment is no longer a problem like it was when the policy was enacted.

Since the first reading, a number of emails were sent by faculty to members of the board and Young expressing a desire to see the policy kept as is.

Comments made during public discussion of the policy included the concern that making the age for early retirement sooner, as Social Security pushes the age for full benefits later, could create a gap in coverage that would affect things other than salary such as health insurance, particularly with new requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

After much discussion, a motion to amend the proposed policy was put forth by Vice Chair Norleen Healy that the deadline for early retirement age remain at three years prior to full retirement age, as stated in the original policy, for all members of the faculty who meet all other requirements of eligibility.

After a 4-3 vote the amendment was passed, leaving the maximum compensation capped at 100 percent but allowing people two more years to apply for it and making the pay-out of the benefits occur over three years instead of five.

With the amendment attached to the proposed policy update, the update passed second reading by unanimous vote.

“It is important to note that decisions made by the board are not always unanimous, but once they have been made we all stand behind them,” board Chair Kati Sherwood said.

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