Thomas Williams, executive director of the state Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), started the County Council’s March 13 meeting by giving an extensive presentation on ERS and the financial implications to the County of Kauai. Williams presents once a year on the subject of ERS.
Williams outlined the impact of “spiking,” which is an employee’s increasing his or her retirement pay by working lots of overtime in the few years leading to his or her retirement.
In 2018, the County of Kauai spent $2.4 million on pension spiking. This number is up from 2017, when spiking cost the county $854,398.
“It’s the egregious spiking that produces the numbers you are looking at,” Williams told the council.
“If the majority of the spike is in police and fire, it’s because we’re working them extensively,” Councilwoman Felicia Cowden said. “I would like to see those numbers split. Somewhere we need to be able to see it. We need to be conscious that we are not being unfair to any portion of what we are doing.”
Williams explained that the state ERS does have the flexibility to change investment opportunities, international or national, as they see fit.
“The Legislature controls our ability to hire and our budget,” Williams said. “In an ideal circumstance, the board would be in charge of the hiring and our budgets. I don’t want to blame the Legislature. I want to convince the Legislature it’s a good investment.”
Williams stated that in fiscal year 2018 Kauai County contributions to ERS stood at $18.1 million. He estimated that, by July 2020, some 41 percent of county contributions will be for fire and police employees.
Three members of the public testified after Williams’ presentation, all echoing the sentiment that the county must operate with a “best-practice method” for each department, especially as it relates to emergency-management services.
Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.