Fulton school employees successfully appeal pension loophole

Change to payouts will not take effect this year for some retiring staff



FULTON COUNTY, Ga. – The Fulton County School System Pension Board voted to accept the appeals of five school system employees who had challenged a recent decision by the board regarding pension payouts. The employees, all soon to retire from the Fulton County School System, will be exempt from new rules of the pension board related to benefits.

Last month, the board voted to close what they viewed as a loophole that rewarded some retirees for retiring early, as opposed to at the end of their contract. The board voted to consider the retirement date as the last day of the employee’s work calendar, even if the last day of work is earlier.

The early retirement potentially adds several hundred dollars to the employee’s monthly pension based on a formula that takes into account summer pay.

The Fulton Pension Plan covers primarily non-instructional staff, including bus drivers, maintenance, custodial, cafeteria, as well as teachers who have been with FCSS continuously since 1988. Teachers hired after July 1, 1988, are covered under the state Teachers Retirement System (TRSGA).

Pension board officials say the revision was necessary to ensure all employees are treated uniformly, and was simply a re-interpretation of the plan. The change impacts only a small percentage of the system’s 14,000 employees.

However, those who were affected by the new interpretation said they stood to lose thousands of dollars over the life of their pension; money they had been promised and expected.

One employee said all employees set to retire this year had individual meetings with pension officials this year where they were given “multiple scenarios as to when we could/would retire.”

The scenario of retiring in April, despite a contract that ended in May, was the most advantageous, he noted.

“We all have these scenarios in writing from the pension office. This has been a retirement option in Fulton County for many years. Obviously, with that one being the best, we all chose that date,” said the 30-year employee who asked not to be identified.

He was most concerned the change was not discussed with any of the employees, so few knew about it until March when the vote was taken to end the practice.

“We should have been informed throughout of any change, and it should never have been put in effect in the middle of a school year,” he said.

Fulton School officials were unsure if others could continue to appeal the decision, or if the waivers are only for the group of five initial appeals.

JC 03-20-14

View desktop version