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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Review Fairfax County Retirement System
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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Review Fairfax County Retirement System

The following open letter is addressed to Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and Kathy Smith, Sully District supervisor.

My wife and I have been homeowners and taxpayers in Fairfax County since 1968. Again, we protest the increases in the overall county budget and real estate taxes. As usual, the board plans to raise the county budget and the real estate rate along with the assessment increase more than twice the inflation rate for FY 2019. The FY19 General Fund Disbursements will increase $181.48 million or 4.42 percent over the FY2018 Adopted Budget which will be $4.288 billion. According to Kiplinger’s News Letter February 2018, the official consumer price index (inflation rate) increased 2.1 percent for calendar year 2017. With the rate increase and the real estate assessment increase, the overall increase in real estate taxes is projected to be almost an average of 5 percent. For the last five years, real estate taxes have increased 26 percent which is almost three times the inflation rate for that period.

The Educational Employees Supplementary Retirement System of Fairfax County (ERFC) is an additional supplemental plan that applies to Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) employees who are on the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) and are paid the same amount of Social Security (SS) that he or she would receive at age 66. So if a teacher retires at 55 with 30 years of service, that teacher receives 75 percent of his or her retirement based on the highest three years of service and includes the SS supplement as if they were already on SS until they reach the SS age. No other county or city in the metropolitan area offers this very generous ERFC system. The proposed budget for ERFC is $94.6 million for FY 2019. This program should be phased out for those FCPS employees less than 40 years of age and terminated for all new employees.

The Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) allows employees retirement payments prior to actual retirement. DROP allows the employee to continue to work and receive their salary for a period of up to three years. During the DROP period, the pension plan accumulates the monthly benefit in an account balance identified as payable to the member only at the end of the DROP period. The monthly benefit that is credited to the DROP participant’s account balance is calculated using service and final compensation as the date of entry in DROP, and the employee does not earn service credit toward retirement trust funds during the DROP period. In FY 2017, approximately $43.6 million in retirement benefits were paid out of the retirement trust funds as DROP lump sum payments. For FY 2019, the DROP budget is approximately $37 million. It is time to drop the DROP!

It is time for county officials to look at the costly defined benefit retirement systems and carefully review what the Federal Government did over 30 years ago when they went to a hybrid system called the Federal Employees Retirement System. In addition, the county should raise the retirement age to 67, which is the SS age to retire, for all new employees which is the same position of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance (FCTA). Last, but certainly not least, is the Fairfax County Unfunded Pension Liability of $5.6 billion which seems to be ignored by the County Board.

I look forward to your written responses.

Charles and Linda McAndrew

FCTA Board Member

Oak Hill