School bus drivers oppose retirement merger

School bus drivers around the state are upset about a move to merge their retirement system with that of teachers. There are several bills in the legislature that seek to merge the two retirement systems.  The bus drivers fear what's proposed could cost them money without benefiting the state.

Bus drivers like Karen Bryant have made a career of getting children to and from school safely and on time.  For 22 years Bryant has been driving a bus in Calcasieu Parish.  "I decided to drive a school bus because I loved being with children," Bryant said.

Bryant says bus drivers oppose attempts to merge their retirement system with teachers. Several bills are in the works to first merge administration of the two systems which Bryant fears will hurt their representation.  "The first year we wouldn't have any representation at all.  The second year they would give us one person to represent the bus drivers, which would be a food service worker," Bryant said.

The bills also require the teachers' retirement system to eliminate 40 positions and develop a strategy for merging the systems.  That strategy would be presented to the public retirement system's actuarial committee which would report to the legislature in February 2013.

Bryant says drivers feel that would cost them money. "We found out if we had been combined with the teachers five years ago, we would have lost $75 million.  So, right now we're $75 million richer," Bryan said. "The services to our membership are going to suffer, because a teacher and a food service worker are not going to have the bus drivers at the top of their priority when they're making decisions,"said Bryant.

While the bills apparent aim is to save the state money, school bus drivers don't think it would accomplish that.  "It won't have any effect on the unfunded liability that the state is going to owe the retirement people.  It saves no money for the general fund.  And that's one thing we just don't understand why Jindal is going to combine them,"said Bryant.

The merging of retirement systems is all part of the Governor's plan to reform the state retirement system. The governor says the current state retirement system is irresponsible and unsustainable.

School bus drivers in Calcasieu Parish are concerned about several bills that propose to merge their retirement system with that of teachers.

At least three bills propose to first merge the administrative boards of the Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System and the Teachers' Retirement System.  Then the proposed law requires that the teachers' board must eliminate at least 40 positions within a year after the effective date of the law.

If approved by the legislature, the law would then require that after the administrations merge, that the Teachers' board come up with a strategy for merging the two retirement plans within a year.  That strategy would then be presented to the Public Retirement Systems' Actuarial Committee.  The Actuarial Committee would then be required to evaluate the strategy and report to the legislature by February 28, 2013.

Some of the specific bills at issue are Senate Bill 56  Senate Bill 46  and House Bill 60.

To view the fact sheet on the Governor's retirement proposals [CLICK HERE].

To view the Governor's address on the Pension Reform Plan [CLICK HERE].

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