COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s law enforcement officers and firefighters will again be required to put a higher percentage of their salaries toward their retirement benefits than other public workers.
The Budget and Control Board approved recommendations Wednesday that require more than 26,000 officers and firefighters statewide to put 8.41 percent of their paychecks toward their pensions starting in July 2014. That’s up from 7.84 percent they’ll begin paying this July.
By comparison, teachers and employees of state and local governments will pay 7.5 percent in July and 8 percent a year later.
A law signed a year ago required nearly all public workers to pay more, as part of changes meant to keep the state’s pension systems solvent for decades to come. It called for a 1.5 percentage-point increase over three years, with the first increase to 7 percent starting last July.
But consultants warned that the law’s scheduled increases aren’t enough to sustain the Police Officers Retirement System, which is separate from the main retirement system, as their benefits differ.
“We have to do that to keep the system viable,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White, a member of the five-person budget board. “Otherwise, we get in trouble.”
The board adopted recommendations from the Public Employee Benefit Authority, which the reform law created. Its duties include periodic evaluations.
The approval also requires state law enforcement agencies as well as local police and fire departments to contribute more. Those taxpayer-funded contributions will increase from 12.84 percent starting in July to 13.41 percent a year later.
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom said the changes didn’t go far enough.