1 Employees Retirement System Of Rhode Island Handbook Membership & Retirement
2 Reduce Contact: Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island 40 Fountain Street Providence, Rhode Island Call Center: / Fax: Website: This booklet was prepared exclusively for use by members of the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI). It is not intended as a substitute for the Rhode Island General Laws (R.I.G.L.) nor will its interpretation prevail should a conflict arise between the contents of this booklet and Chapters 16, 36 and 45 of the R.I.G.L. Rules governing retirement are subject to change periodically either by statute of the Rhode Island Legislature or by regulation of ERSRI. The information contained in this booklet is provided for Rhode Island state employees, Rhode Island public school teachers, state correctional officers, state registered nurses, and general municipal employees of participating Rhode Island units of the Municipal Employees Retirement System. Different retirement rules and requirements apply to disability applicants, police & fire members, and members of the General Assembly. Contact ERSRI call center for additional information if you are in one of these categories. Eighth Edition: September, 2010 State and Teache Correct Directions: ERSRI is located in downtown Providence, across from the Journal Bulletin. Take Exit 21 Downtown Providence off Route 95. Parking is available in nearby parking garages. Pension Ded
3 Table of Contents Members ERSRI Member Services Membership Information Contributions Service and Purchase of Service Credit Refund & Rollover Retirees Your Retirement Benefit Eligibility State and Teacher Eligibility State Correctional Officers Eligibility State Registered Nurses Eligibility Municipal Eligibility State and Teacher Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Correctional Officers & MHRH Nurses COLA Municipal COLA Retirement Options Reduced Benefit Eligibility Early Retirement Deferred Retirement Teachers Survivors Benefits Beneficiaries Benefits Applying for Retirement Pension Deductions and Retiree Health Benefits Post-Retirement Employment
5 ERSRI Member Services 5 ERSRI Website Visit our retirement website today at and be sure to create an account and add your address to get retirement news. The ERSRI website can help you better understand the retirement process, view real time information regarding your retirement account including member account balance, create an estimate of benefits, retire online, print forms, view monthly pension payroll, read our ecompass Newsletters and ehandbooks, as well as contact us. ecompass Newsletters ERSRI is going green! Active and retired members of the retirement system will receive the ecompass Newsletters, a great way to get fast and convenient updates on retirement news. To add your address to our system, simply go to and create an account. Go to Change Web Profile tab and update or add your account. ehandbook Series Membership & Retirement Handbook Disability Handbook Police & Fire Handbook ehandbooks are available on our website Retirement Counseling Services ERSRI offers group counseling at our Providence office. A benefit estimate and retirement forms are given at the group session. Schedule your appointment three to six months before retirement by contacting our call center at Annual 1099-R At the end of each January, retired members of the retirement system will receive a 1099-R form. The form provides the details concerning the benefit distributions you received during the current tax year and should be used in filing your federal income tax return.
6 6 Membership Information What is the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island? The Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI) is a contributory defined benefit retirement system governed by Chapters 16, 36 and 45 of the Rhode Island General Laws. The plan provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to state employees, public school teachers, and municipal employees who are employed by a participating municipality. Who governs the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island? The Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island is governed by a retirement board. The Board, which meets the second Wednesday of each month, establishes rules and regulations for the agency. The Board also approves each application for disability benefits and hears appeals by members who have been aggrieved by an administrative decision of the executive director. Finally, the Board oversees the delivery of services and information to its membership of over 34,000 active members and close to 24,000 retirees. The retirement office staff is managed by an executive director who oversees a staff of 25 full-time employees. The Board is composed of fifteen members chosen in accordance with Chapter 36 of the Rhode Island General Laws and is chaired by the General Treasurer. Its membership includes: General Treasurer; the director of administration or designee; the budget officer or designee; 2 public member appointees of the Governor, subject to Senate approval; 2 public member appointees of the General Treasurer, subject to Senate approval; President of the League of Cities and Towns or designee; 2 active state employees or union representatives elected by active state membership; 2 active teacher or union representatives elected by active teacher membership; municipal member or union representative elected by active municipal membership; 2 retired members elected by the plan retirees; For those members elected by the membership or appointed by the Governor and General Treasurer, the term of office is four years.
7 Membership Eligibility 7 Who is eligible to become a member of the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island? State Employees: Any person employed by the State of Rhode Island in a posted position of at least 20-hours-per-week and consistently works every week of the year at a minimum of 20-hours-per week is eligible for membership in the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island. Your employment cannot be of a casual or seasonal nature and your business time must be devoted exclusively to the service of the state. Correctional Officers - members employed as assistant director (adult services), assistant deputy director, chief of inspection, and associate directors, correctional officer, chief of security, work rehabilitation program supervisor, supervisor of custodial records and reports, and classification counselor within the department of corrections as provided in R.I.G.L For information on retirement eligibility, please see page 24. Registered Nurses - members employed as registered nurses within the department of mental health, retardation, and hospitals as provided in R.I.G.L For information on retirement eligibility, please see page 26. Municipal Employees: Any person employed in a posted position of at least 20-hours-per-week and consistently works every week of the year at a minimum of 20-hours per week is eligible for membership in the Municipal Employees Retirement System. Your employment cannot be of a casual or seasonal nature and your business time must be devoted exclusively to the service of the participating municipality. City or town council members are eligible for membership as provided in R.I.G.L Public School Teachers: Public school teachers are eligible for membership in the Employees Retirement System provided they are: (1) certified by the Board of Regents; (2) engaged in teaching as a principal occupation; and (3) regularly employed on at least a half-time basis as a teacher in any city, town, regional school district or collaborative. The statutory definition of teacher, found in R.I.G.L , allows the following permissible titles: teacher, supervisor, principal, assistant principal, superintendent or assistant superintendent, director, assistant director, coordinator, consultant, dean, assistant educational administrator, nurse teacher, and attendance officer, or any person working within the educational system certified by the Board of Regents; or occupational or physical therapists licensed by the department of health and employed by a school committee. Other permissible titles are school business administrators and school psychologists. School business administrators are not required to hold a teaching certification. Am I required to become a member of the system? Yes. By law, membership in the Employees or Municipal Employees Retirement System is a condition of employment and is required of all employees who meet the Board s eligibility requirements.
8 Contributions 8 How much am I required to contribute? The amount that you contribute to the system is based upon a percentage of your total salary, excluding overtime. Type of Employee Teachers State Employees Police & Fire Members Municipal Employees Percentage 9.5% 8.75% 7.00%* 6.00%* * Those public employees whose municipalities have Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) provisions, or police and fire members whose municipalities have accepted the 20-year plan, contribute an extra 1% into the retirement system for each additional benefit provision. What does the state or municipality contribute to the retirement system? Each year, the retirement system s actuary determines the amount of money necessary to fund the benefits of retirees and future retirees of the system. Based on the liability of the system, the actuary determines a percentage of payroll, or employer contribution rate, necessary to properly fund the required benefits. The actuary determines a different employer contribution rate for state employees, teachers, and each participating municipality.
9 9 What happens to the money that I contribute to the system? Once you are enrolled as an active member in the Employees or Municipal Employees Retirement System, an account is established in your name. Your employer deducts your retirement contributions and transfers them to the system, where they are invested. Contributing members can view their member account balance via their website account which contains the real time contributions credited to their individual account. How are my contributions invested? Your contributions to the Employees and Municipal Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island are deposited into a trust fund set aside for the exclusive benefit of the members of the retirement system and their beneficiaries. The investments of the fund are managed by the nine-member State Investment Commission (SIC), which is chaired by the General Treasurer. The other members of the SIC are the state s Director of Administration or designee, a director of the Higher Education Assistance Authority or designee to be appointed by the General Treasurer, an active or retired member of the retirement system (or union official) appointed by the General Treasurer, two members of the general public appointed by the General Treasurer and three members of the general public appointed by the Governor. Appointments by the General Treasurer and Governor are subject to Senate approval. The SIC meets monthly, but more frequently as needed, to review and analyze the investment performance of the state s pension fund.
10 10 Service and Purchase of Service Credit How do I receive credit towards my retirement allowance? Generally, the number of years you have worked and contributed to the retirement system will determine the amount of your retirement allowance. If you are a state or municipal employee, you will receive one year of retirement credit for each full year worked and contributed. Any reduction in hours may result in a reduction of service credit. Your posted position must be at least 20-hours-per-week and you must consistently work every week of the year at a minimum of 20-hours-per week. Casual or seasonal employment is excluded. If you are a teacher, you will receive a year of retirement credit for each school year in which you contribute and are employed at least 135 full days. Membership in other Participating Plans or Units Time spent within other participating plans or units of the retirement system can be used towards your eventual retirement. For example, if you were employed by both the Town of Bristol and the State of Rhode Island (not concurrently), you may count both service periods towards your eventual retirement. Municipal credit must have been earned within a participating unit of the Municipal Retirement System. Can I purchase retirement service credit? Yes, a member may be eligible to purchase retirement service credit for other types of employment, or periods where the member was on official leave or laid off from contributing employment. A total of five years of purchased service credit may be added to your total years of service, but as of June 16, 1991 for state employees and December 31, 1992 for municipal employees, all members must have ten years of contributing service in order to vest. Service credit purchases are not considered contributing service. The next few pages contain a description of some of the more common types of credit you may be eligible to purchase as a member of the Employees Retirement System (ERS) or Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS). Restoration of Service Credit Withdrawal or Refund Payback If you return to membership after withdrawing your contributions upon separation from service, you may restore your credits after completing one year of service from the date of your return. You must pay into the system the amount you had refunded to you, plus interest. Purchase of withdrawn service credit is not limited to 5 years, and is not included in the 5-year purchase limit. Restoration of contributing service credit will effectively restore your retirement credit in the years it was originally earned, and restored contributing service does count as contributing
11 11 Official Leave of Absence You may purchase up to four years of credit for time spent on an official leave of absence from your employment. You must return to active employment for at least one year before you are eligible to make this purchase. MERS members must return to work immediately after official leave. For state employees and teachers, requesting this purchase after June 16, 2009, you must pay into the system the full actuarial cost of such time based on your age and salary at the time of the purchase request (see actuarial cost chart on page 12). For example, if your current salary at time of purchase request is $48,000 and you are 54 and looking to purchase one year of official leave of absence, the purchase cost under the new law will be $9,600 ($48,000 current salary X 20% actuarial factor based on current age of 54 = $9,600). For members of MERS, you must pay into the system the amount you would have contributed to the system, plus interest. Official Lay-off You may purchase up to one year of credit for time spent on an official lay-off, provided you were not on official leave without pay and did not withdraw your retirement contributions while laid off. You must return to service from the layoff (no termination of employment). For state employees and teachers requesting this purchase after June 16, 2009, you must pay into the system the full actuarial cost of such time based on your age and salary at the time of the purchase request (see actuarial cost chart on page 12). For members of MERS, you must pay the amount you would have contributed to the system for the lay -off, plus interest. Armed Service Credit If you served in the Armed Services prior to your employment as a public employee, you may purchase up to a maximum of four years credit for time spent on active duty for service in the US Armed Services or Reserves or the Merchant Marine. The purchase of credit is based upon 10% of your first full year of earnings. If you began your membership in the system after July 1, 1980, you may buy your military credits interest free provided they are purchased within your first five years of membership in the system.
12 12 Out-of-State and Private School Teaching If you are a public school teacher within the State of Rhode Island, you may be eligible to purchase up to five years of outof-state teaching or private school teaching time. You will be charged the full actuarial cost of such time based on your age and salary at the time of the purchase (see below chart). Credit for Service in a Non-Participating Municipality Members may purchase service credit for time spent within other municipalities within Rhode Island that are not part of MERS, provided the service credit is being used in only one retirement system. For example, you might be eligible to purchase time spent working for the City of Providence (which is not a MERS plan). You will be charged full actuarial cost based on your age and salary at the time of the purchase (see below chart). Other types of credit Other types of employment may also be eligible for purchase, but may depend on your current employment or other factors. Visit for information on other types of service credit purchases, or contact ERSRI. Actuarial Costs Age % Under and Over 24 When can I purchase creditable service? You must be an active member of the retirement system in order to purchase retirement credit. You cannot purchase time towards your retirement after you retire or terminate employment, or if you are an inactive member (non-contributing for more than one year).
13 13 Information on Service Credit Purchases No member may purchase more than five years of service credit as of January 1, Service credit purchases are not considered contributing service toward vesting. Time purchased for ERSRI service credit cannot be credited toward a pension in another retirement system. Restoration of contributing service credit is not considered a service credit purchase and is not subject to the five-year limitation. However, this service does count for vesting purposes. Wage and salary information for calculation of service credit purchases cannot be used for calculation of average salary for retirement benefits. Only salary earned and paid for performance of duty for covered employment shall be used for calculating average salary for retirement benefits. How do I purchase creditable service? The ERSRI website at contains a listing of the various types of service credit you may be eligible to purchase, and the corresponding request form for each type of purchase. Simply download the appropriate form for your purchase, have it completed by the employing authority or agency indicated on the form, and submit the completed form to the Retirement Office for processing. If you have questions about the purchase, you may contact ERSRI. What are my payment options? You may pay either by lump sum, payroll deduction via installment agreement, or rollover pre-tax dollars from a qualified plan (i.e. 401K). The payment selection made is irrevocable consistent with federal law. A member may not enter into an installment agreement and make a lump sum payment, nor may a member enter into a lump sum agreement and make installments. What if I am planning to retire and have an installment purchase in progress? If retiring, you must contact ERSRI in advance for the option of either pro-rating the installment agreement or being billed for the remaining portion. The employer s written confirmation of your termination will be required.
14 14 Refund & Rollover If I leave my job, can I take a cash refund or rollover my retirement contributions? Yes. If you leave or terminate from participating service for any reason other than death or retirement, you may apply to receive a cash refund of your contributions, or you may rollover to an IRA or another qualified retirement plan. Members receive no interest on the return of contributions from the retirement system. Cash refunds are subject to 20% federal withholding, and you may also be subject to an IRS penalty for early withdrawal depending on your age at the time of withdrawal. Normal processing of cash refunds is 35 days after date of termination, in order to allow posting of all retirement contributions to your account. If you wish, you may rollover your contributions to an IRA or another qualified retirement plan such as a 401k. Forms for rollover are available on our website at or by contacting the ERSRI call center. If you have created a user account on our website, you may simply apply online for your refund once you have terminated. Can I borrow against my retirement account, due to hardship? No. Rhode Island General Law allows a return of contributions only upon termination of employment. Members may not withdraw funds without terminating, nor may they borrow from their ERS or MERS account.
15 15 Your Retirement Benefit Eligibility When am I eligible for a retirement benefit? During 2005 and 2009, a series of reforms have modified the retirement benefit structure for state employees and public school teachers. With these reforms, schedule type has become an important factor in determining eligibility. To determine when you are eligible for a retirement benefit, keep in mind the following: What is Contributing Service? Each active member of the retirement system shall contribute an amount of his or her compensation required by statute in the form of deductions from compensation for services rendered. Each member will receive one year of contributing service credit for each full year worked and contributed (for teachers it is each school year in which a teacher worked and contributed at least 135 full days). With the exception of restoration of withdrawn contributions, purchased service credit is not considered contributing service. When will I be vested? Members are vested for pension benefits after they attain at least ten full years of contributing service as a contributing member of the employee s retirement system. Can I combine service for vesting? If you have prior contributing retirement service credit in the Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS) from previous municipal employment, it will count for vesting with your ERS service credit, and vice versa, provided it is not overlapping employment. Service credit is combined when you retire, in the plan under which you retire. When will I be pension eligible? Members that are pension eligible are those that have met the specific requirements of statutes to retire and begin collecting a pension benefit (see eligibility outlined on pages 16-30), but at minimum must have at least ten full years of contributing service to be vested. The eligibility requirements for collecting your benefit vary depending on which benefit structure and plan you are in (ERS or MERS). If you withdraw from service before you have met the requirements to retire, but it was after you accumulated ten years of contributing service to vest and you left your contributions in the system, you may be eligible to receive a deferred retirement benefit when you reach age of eligibility (see page 43).
16 16 State Employees and Teachers Eligible for Retirement at September 30, 2009 Effective October 1, 2009, changes were enacted under H 5983Aaa, Article 7 Substitute A as amended in the 2009 legislative session. State employees and teachers that were pension eligible to retire at September 30, 2009 are not affected by the changes, even if they do not retire, except for changes relating to purchase of service credit and accidental disability. If you are currently receiving a monthly pension payment, none of the changes apply to you or affect your current pension benefit. How do I know if I was eligible to retire at September 30, 2009? For state employees and public school teachers it is important to first determine whether you are a Schedule A or Schedule B member. Who is Schedule A and eligible to retire at September 30, 2009? State employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) or public school teachers vested with at least 10 years contributing service by July 1, 2005 are Schedule A members. To be eligible, these members had to meet either Schedule A eligibility criteria by September 30, 2009 of 28 years of service credit at any age, or 10 years of contributing service credit at age 60. Members that met these criteria by September 30, 2009 remain Schedule A members and are not affected by the changes, even if they do not retire, except for changes relating to purchase of service credit and accidental disability. Who is Schedule B and eligible to retire at September 30, 2009? State employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) or public school teachers vested with at least 10 years contributing service after July 1, 2005 are Schedule B members. To be eligible, these members had to meet either eligibility criteria by September 30, 2009 of 29 years of service credit at age 59, or 10 years of contributing service credit at age 65. Members that met these criteria by September 30, 2009 remain Schedule B members and are not affected by the changes, even if they do not retire, except for changes relating to purchase of service credit and accidental disability.
17 17 What are my service credit rates if eligible at September 30, 2009? State Employees & Teachers Schedule A Schedule B Years 1-10: 1.7% Years 1-10: 1.6% Years 11-20: 1.9% Years 11-20: 1.8% Years 21-34: 3% Years 21-25: 2.0% Years 35: 2% Years 26-30: 2.25% Years 31-37: 2.5% Year 38: 2.25% What is the most my pension can be? The maximum percent of final average salary (FAS) that a state employee (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) or a public school teacher may achieve if eligible to retire at September 30, 2009 as either a Schedule A or Schedule B member are listed below. Schedule A Schedule B 80% FAS 75% FAS How much will I receive in retirement benefits? The amount of your retirement benefit will be determined by two factors: your years of creditable service and your final average salary (FAS). For Schedule A and Schedule B state employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) and public school teachers eligible to retire at September 30, 2009, the FAS is calculated using your three highest consecutive years. The service credit rates used to determine your benefit are based on your schedule type and the above chart.
18 18 State Employees and Teachers Ineligible for Retirement at September 30, 2009 Who is Schedule A and ineligible to retire at September 30, 2009? State employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) or public school teachers vested with at least 10 years contributing service by July 1, 2005 are Schedule A members. However, if these members did not meet the Schedule A eligibility criteria by September 30, 2009 of 28 years of service credit at any age, or 10 years of contributing service credit at age 60, they are now aligned with a new schedule type called Schedule AB. What are the service credit rates for Schedule AB members? For Schedule AB state employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) or public school teachers, who were ineligible to retire by September 30, 2009, the law change preserves all Schedule A service credit rates earned as of September 30, All service credit rates earned after September 30, 2009 are at the Schedule B rates (see chart on page 17). For example, if you are a Schedule AB state employee with 20 years of service credit at September 30, 2009, you would have preserved a 36% service credit factor using Schedule A rates for your first 20 years of service (Year 1-10 at 1.7% = 17% plus Year at 1.9% = 19% for total of 36%). This service earned as of September 30, 2009 becomes your frozen service credit. For your next year of service credit after September 30, 2009, you would earn 2.0% under the Schedule B rates for Year 21 for a total service credit rate of 38% by September 30, Who is Schedule B and ineligible to retire at September 30, 2009? State employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) or public school teachers vested with at least 10 years contributing service after July 1, 2005 are Schedule B members. However, if these members did not meet the Scheduled B eligibility criteria by September 30, 2009 of 29 years of service credit at age 59, or 10 years of contributing service credit at age 65, they are now aligned with a new schedule type called Schedule B1. For Schedule B1 members, there is also a reduced benefit eligibility at age 55 if you have at least 20 years of service; this is explained further on pages What about New Hires into the retirement system? New state employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) or public school teachers that become members of the employees retirement system after September 30, 2009 are Schedule B2 members. They are eligible to retire at age 62 with 29 years of service, or age 65 with 10 years contributing service. For Schedule B2 members, there is also a reduced benefit eligibility at age 55 if you have at least 20 years of service; this is explained further on pages
19 19 What are the service credit rates for Schedule B1 or Schedule B2 members? State Employees & Teachers Schedule B1 and Schedule B2 Years 1-10: Years 11-20: Years 21-25: Years 26-30: 1.6% 1.8% 2.0% 2.25% Years 31-37: 2.5% Year 38: 2.25% What is the most my pension can be? The maximum percent of final average salary (FAS) that a member may achieve for each schedule type are listed below. Schedule AB Schedule B1 Schedule B2 80% FAS 75% FAS 75% FAS How much will I receive in retirement benefits? The amount of your retirement benefit will be determined by two factors: your years of creditable service and your final average salary (FAS). For state employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) and public school teachers ineligible to retire at September 30, 2009 or new hires after that date (now called Schedule AB, Schedule B1, and Schedule B2), the FAS will be based on the five highest consecutive years of salary rather than the previous basis of three highest consecutive years. The service credit rates used to determine your benefit if you are Schedule AB are explained on page 18. The service credit rates used to determine your benefit if you are Schedule B1 and Schedule B2 are based on the above chart.
20 20 What Changes were made to Retirement Eligibility if I m ineligible to retire at September 30, 2009 or a new hire after that date? For State employees (excluding Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses) and public school teachers who were ineligible to retire at September 30, 2009 or were new hires after that date (also known as Schedule AB, Schedule B1, and Schedule B2 as defined on page 18), the new law establishes a minimum retirement age of 62 for all members, except those Schedule B members (Schedule B1 and Schedule B2) who retire with less than 29 years of service; their retirement eligibility remains age 65 with a minimum of 10 years of contributing service credit. The law provides a proportional downward adjustment of the minimum retirement age of 62 based on years of service credited as of September 30, 2009* (also known as frozen service). It is important to note that a proportional downward adjustment of the minimum retirement age of 62 applies to Schedule AB members and only Schedule B1 members who retire with 29 or more years of service. Here is an example to help you understand how the proportional downward adjustment formula works. For simplicity, we are using whole numbers for age and years of service; however, eligibility calculations are done based on your exact age and years of service at September 30, Once you know your current benefit structure at September 30, 2009 as described on page 18, you are ready to determine your retirement eligibility under the new law. Let s take a Schedule A ERSRI member who began service with the state at age 33 and had 15 years of total service credit as of September 30, 2009 (also known as frozen service). As of September 30, 2009, this member was ineligible to retire under Schedule A because they did not meet the eligibility criteria of 28 years of service credit at any age, or 10 years of contributing service credit at age 60. This member is now called Schedule AB. Under the new law, the first step would be to determine the member s FIRST point of retirement eligibility under the laws in effect on September 30, *If you requested a purchase of service credit before September 30, 2009 and it is determined by ERSRI to be eligible to be purchased, it will be applied towards your service credit balance at September 30, 2009 and will aide in the calculations used to reduce retirement eligibility age from age 62 (or age 55 for Correctional Officers and MHRH Nurses).
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