Maple Dale-Indian Hills District saves when new pension plan begins

Oct. 16, 2012

Fox Point - Support staff with the Maple Dale-Indian Hills School District will pay a portion of their pension starting Jan. 1, a change that the School Board is set to approve at its meeting Thursday.

The district will also switch the pension plan from Principal Financial Group to the Wisconsin Retirement Systems, at a significant savings, district Business Manager Gary Swalve said.

Though board members agreed they have no choice but to approve changes to support staff pensions, the item was nonetheless tabled last week so administration can host an information meeting with staff to answer questions and alleviate concerns.

Something to talk about?

The debate last week was not whether support staff should begin contributing to their pensions through WRS; rather, it was whether an information meeting was even necessary.

"I feel this is a fiscal responsibility we have as a board," said Board Member Jim LeTart. "I'm all for keeping employees informed, but I don't want to give a false impression to staff that they have a say in this, because this is a decision we have to make. I think you're setting up a bad dynamic by delaying it."

Board President Mark Goldstein disagreed, saying they have nothing to lose by keeping staff informed before they approve pension changes.

After the initial motion to approve changes to the pension plan produced a stalemate vote, the board unanimously voted to table the item until Oct. 18 and directed staff to schedule an employee information session.

Contributing to savings

Support staff will begin to contribute 6.65 percent of the WRS pension obligation - the same that the school district will pay. Currently, employees do not pay any part of their pension.

In addition, employees with no WRS service credit after July 1, 2011, will have to meet a five-year vesting requirement to accrue further service credit, a change that affects four employees in the district. Those workers are well aware of that requirement, which is mandated by state law, Swalve said.

Employees with service prior to July 1, 2011, are not affected.

If employees leave the district before meeting the five-year requirement, they can withdraw the funds of their employee contribution. If they pull their money out before the five year period - or before Jan. 1, 2017 - they will not receive the WRS pension contributions.

By incorporating the vesting period and employee contributions, the district will save $69,000 annually The district currently pays $160,000 for support staff private pensions.

"We can't continue this process - it's just too costly," said Swalve.

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