Knox County's Pension Plans: Defined Benefits and Contributions

Knox County's Pension Plans: Defined Benefits and Contributions

Photo by David Luttrell

Knox County has three different Defined Benefit plans, and three Defined Contribution plans.

Defined Benefit Plans

• The Teachers DB Plan is the old city school system teachers’ plan, which the county inherited when the school systems merged in 1987. (Teachers hired after the merger are covered under the state’s teacher retirement system, which the school system pays into.) As of 2010, there were only 36 teachers still teaching in county schools who were covered by the plan, but the county was paying pensions to 434 retirees.

• The County DB Plan is the old Defined Benefits plan that was closed in 1991. At the time, existing county employees were allowed to choose between staying on it or switching over to the new County DC Plan (see below). About half chose to stay. Of those, as of 2010, 174 were still working for the county and 195 retirees were collecting pensions.

• The Uniformed Officers Pension Plan was established in 2007 after county voters narrowly approved it. Each covered employee of the Sheriff’s Department contributes 6 percent of their paycheck. Payment amounts are based on years of service and salary levels. At full retirement, after 30 years of service, it equals 75 percent of the average salary form the two top-earning years. (However, there is no continuing health insurance. Retirees have to pick up the full tab for that.) There are about 730 employees on the plan. To cover projected liabilities, the county is now contributing the equivalent of 15 percent of the Sheriff’s Department payroll to the fund, plus an equal amount to cover the debt on bonds issued to create the fund in 2007. In 2010, that came to a total of about $4.5 million.

Defined Contribution Plans

• The County DC Plan was established in 1991. It covers county employees other than teachers and the Sheriff’s Department. It is a straightforward matching plan, with all employees required to contribute 6 percent of their pay and the county matching with another 6 percent. As of 2010, there were 4,506 current employees contributing to the plan, and 1,495 retirees. In 2010, the county and its employees each paid $7.8 million into the plan.

• The Asset Accumulation Plan was added to the DC Plan by County Commission in 2007, to give long-time employees the option of contributing more and getting a higher match from the county. Employees who have been with the county from five to nine years can be matched up to 8 percent, from 10 to 14 years up to 10 percent, and 15 years or more up to 12 percent. In 2010, this plan cost the county $1.5 million.

• The Medical Retirement Plan lets employees put aside money against post-retirement medical expenses, with the county matching 25 percent up to a maximum annual amount of $104. (This plan has changed several times, and is kept alive on a rolling basis by County Commission.) In 2010, the county paid about $269,000 into the plan.

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