Reddy Pakala, President
Spring in Ventura County is especially wonderful this year due to an unusual abundance of rain. Enjoy the green mountains and blooming flowers while they last. It is so refreshing to drive through southern California and see blooming flowers.
THE FOLLOWING IS A VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR THOSE WHO RETIRED FROM THE COUNTY OF VENTURA ON OR AFTER JANUARY 1, 2013.
The California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) which took effect on January 1, 2013, changed how calculations for retirement benefits are applied for employees since that date in all public retirement systems. This also includes the Ventura County Employees’ Retirement Association (VCERA), the agency that disburses our retirement checks and manages our retirement funds. Until now, these rules were never applied to employees hired before 2013.
On July 30, 2020, the California Supreme Court issued the Alameda Decision (Alameda), which may also affect employees who started work with the County before January 2013. All 1937 Act counties, like Ventura, are evaluating how this affects them. VCERA is just now getting near the end of their evaluation. VCERA delayed the implementation of both Alameda and PEPRA exclusions because of several legal challenges and objections from stakeholders.
The REAVC recently learned about the specific actions and pending actions by VCERA. As soon as we learned about it a Special Committee was appointed on Alameda, made up of members of the REAVC Board. This committee has been working on these issues, and appeared before the VCERA Board on April 17, 2023, to express concerns for the retirees we represent.
On April 17, 2023, VCERA held a public hearing and unanimously approved two resolutions:
The first was about the County’s Flex Benefits Program (Alameda), Agenda item IX A, with an effective date of July 30, 2020, meaning that anyone who retired before July 30, 2020, will not be affected. For those who retire “on or after July 30, 2020,” only “the portions of any cafeteria plan benefit that…members could receive directly in cash” is included in final compensation for calculation of retirement benefits. Retirees who retired before this date will not be affected by any changes in benefits going forward, and VCERA will not recoup the net overpaid retirement benefits.
The second item, agenda item IX.B, clarified an earlier resolution about how i) Leave redemptions (vacation buydowns) in excess of what is both earned and payable in “each 12-month period during the final average salary period” and ii) Service rendered outside of normal working hours, such as standby pay, call-back pay and shift differentials on overtime are not pensionable. It was applied effective August 31, 2020, to all members who retired after that date. However, that resolution provided that VCERA would recoup overpayments made after August 31, 2020. In these cases, employees who retired on or after January 1, 2013, may have a reduction in pension benefits going forward, IF they cashed out the maximum amount of vacation allowed by their MOU. The new resolution provides there would be no recoupments.
The VCERA Board also directed staff to develop a comprehensive Alameda Implementation plan and share it with the Board, stakeholders, and retired members. We don’t know when that will be available. We do know that VCERA staff will provide a written notice of calculations to each impacted retiree. The timeline is uncertain, because the calculations are very complicated, and there are a large number of them to do. Each retiree will have an opportunity to administratively appeal any claimed errors with respect to such calculations. Implementation dates for both resolutions will occur after the thousands of retirees receive a detailed analysis and have an opportunity to exhaust an appeal process. Meanwhile, retirees will not be required to pay back money received above their newly calculated pension from January 1, 2013, through August 31, 2020, as mentioned above. Retirees will not receive reductions to their pensions until this notification and appeal process is exhausted.
The REAVC committee/Board will review the Implementation Plan, when it is available, and will consider pursuing available options to help retirees with negative impact on their pensions.
Any retiree may visit www.vcera.org/alameda to get the latest updates. You may also visit www.vcera.org and review the April 17, 2023, public hearing content for items IX A and B. Approximately 25 retirees testified at the hearing. Current CEO County Sevet Johnson stayed for the entire meeting and testified on behalf of retirees, as did former CEO Marty Robinson, and the following REAVC Board members: Reddy Pakala, Roberta Griego, Jacquie Richardson, and Lyn Krieger. Board members Kelly Shirk and Ben Emami also attended in support of the effort. Several other individual retirees also testified. A copy of the April 16, 2023, letter from REAVC to VCERA follows below for your information.
The REAVC will continue working on the vacation buydown issue, and the full REAVC Board will discuss this matter at its next regularly scheduled Board meeting on June 13, 2023, starting at noon. If you wish to attend, please message email@example.com or call 805-644-7814 and leave a message. Due to limited room capacity, some members may need to attend through Zoom.
Any of you who are interested in volunteering or serving as a Board member, please let any of our current Board member know. You may also leave a telephone message for us at (805) 644-7814 or write an email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit our website at reavc.org. There you will find links to past newsletters, minutes of Board meetings, and information about upcoming events posted on the website. If you have questions, please feel free to contact any REAVC officer or Board member.
REAVC CALENDAR FOR 2023 – Every plan is made to be changed but failure to plan is to plan to fail. HUH? Anyway, our current calendar for 2023 can be found by clicking here. CLICK HERE!! 2023 – REAVC Calendar Just remember, the calendar is subject to change despite our best efforts.