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April 10. 2013 7:35PM

Retiree notification bill draws ire of government officials

CONCORD - Municipal, county and school district officials would be required to notify their part-time employees who are retired public workers they can only work 1,300 hours a year under a bill proposed by state Rep. Tim Copeland, R-Stratham.



The local and county officials opposed the bill saying they feared the retirees could hold them liable for their reduction in benefits if they work more than the limit.

Barbara Reid of the NH Municipal Association said she supports the idea of notifying retired public workers collecting a pension from the New Hampshire Retirement System they are limited to 1,300 hours a year, but was concerned the cities and towns could be liable if they cannot prove they notified their workers.

She said the retirement system should be responsible for notifying its retirees of the limitations. "The relationship is with the employees and the retirement system," she said.

Reid said another bill going through the Senate, House Bill 342, requires retirement system employers to report quarterly the compensation paid to retired members working for them.

Coupled with HB 364, she said, workers who exceed the limit could seek to hold the public employers liable for their lost retirement benefits.

She said one community has no way of knowing if an employee working 20 hours a week is also working for another community 20 hours a week.

However, Diana Lacey, president of the State Employees Association, took issue with Reid's contention, saying it is the responsibility of all the participants in the retirement system to improve the health of the system, which has an unfunded liability of more than $5 billion.

She called the liability issue a red herring and said the municipal association opposed any limit on the hours of retired public employees as part-time employees.

Cities, towns, counties, school districts and the state do not have to pay their share of the retirement contribution for part-time employees. Critics of the practice, such as unions, say it hurts the retirement system by robbing it of the cash a regular worker and the public employer would pay into the system.

Lacey said all public employers would be required to do is give workers notice the retirees can only work 1,300 hours a year when they are hired or post it in the work place.

Dean Michener, Government Affairs Director for the New Hampshire School Board Association, said the law would impose a new requirement on school districts. He said the notice could effect the retired employees benefits in a very prospective.

He and others said they had no problem if only the retirement system is responsible for sending out the hourly limit notifications to retirees.

Current law limits retired members of the system to 32 hours a week and 1,300 hours a year.

The committee did not make an immediate recommendation on the bill.

grayno@unionleader.com

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