Las Cruces, NM – On November 8th the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board or NMERB approved a series of major changes to the Educational Retirement Plan for the state. Around sixty-three thousand public education employees will be affected.
The proposed changes include an increase in public employee contributions of 0.5 percent. The proposed calculation of benefits is based on employees highest consecutive seven years instead of the current five.
NMSU Criminal Justice Assistant Professor and Co-Coordinator of the American Association of University Professors, Joan Crowley says this hinders educators from taking opportunities for growth or accommodate conflicting demands.
Crowley - "For faculty, a lot of us teach in the summer. If you usually teach in the summer and for some reason in one of those seven years you decide not to. Let's say there is an illness in the family or you have an opportunity to do some research or whatever, that means a permanent reduction in your retirement benefit."
One of the biggest changes that has many New Mexico educators concerned is the adjustment to the number of years a person has to work to get benefits. The rule of eighty, formerly seventy-five, means employees could retire when their age plus their years of service totaled eighty. This would be abolished by the plan.
Instead, there will be no retirement until age sixty with thirty years of service.
Crowley says this change signifies a drastic limit to the benefits for higher education.
Crowley-"Most faculty don't start until later. Most people move here from elsewhere and you don't expect to stay in the same university for your entire career and for places like applied disciplines, like criminal justice, social work and business people move into academia after having a career in the field which provides really valuable experience. With the retirement structure like that people wouldn't be able to afford to take a position at NMSU."
NMERB Executive Director Jan Goodwin told the Las Cruces Sun News the proposal seeks to address losses suffered by the retirement fund in recent years and to ensure its long-term sustainability. She stated that the goal of the preliminary recommendations is to obtain eighty percent funding to plan and gradually pay off nine billion dollars in projected unfunded liability in thirty years.
Monday was the last day to submit recommendations to the ERB and the board will vote on a final proposal December 10th, but ultimately the state legislature gets the final vote when they convene in January.