Time running out to avert pension contribution rate hike for quasi-governmental agencies
Kentucky lawmakers have less than three weeks before some quasi-governmental agencies and regional universities have to pay more for pension costs.
Wednesday, House Democratic leaders invited Governor Matt Bevin to a face-to-face meeting, hoping to come to an agreement on a pension plan before the July 1 deadline.
The governor's proposal still does not have enough support to pass, and he has said he would not call a special session until the votes were there.
With mounting uncertainty and time running out, affected agencies are bracing to make some painful choices.
The Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, or KASAP, represents a network of 13 rape crisis centers across the state.
"Any victim who's been served in a rape crisis center would say to you 'They saved my life,'" said KASAP Executive Director Eileen Recktenwald.
Rectenwald said eight of the 13 centers are enrolled in the Kentucky Employees Retirement System.
"When we received the retirement, we were overjoyed, because it was a 5 percent employer share, basically 5.89 percent. It was that forever," said Recktenwald. "Our staff were very underpaid with no benefits whatsoever, so that was an absolute gift and we were very grateful to have it, and now it has become a huge issue that may close us."
If Kentucky's leaders do nothing to address the issue by July 1, pension contribution rates for quasi-public agencies like KASAP will jump from about 49 percent to about 83 percent.
"Which means that the centers will be paying more for retirement benefits then they will for salary," Recktenwald said.
If that happens, Rectenwald said some of the layoffs and closures of outreach offices for her organization would be immediate, especially for crisis centers in rural areas which have smaller staffs. She said cuts to their services put victims of sexual assault at risk.
"The quicker a sexual assault victim is able to reach help, and the quicker that they are believed and assisted, the quicker they begin to heal," Recktenwald said. "If they don't report it or if they spend a long time trying to get services or they never get services, the trauma is likely to affect them for the rest of their life."