We spend a lot of time talking about the savings crisis in the United States. We’ve written about the unfunded liabilities in 401(k) plans, we’ve written about the lack of financial literacy, and the dangerously low retirement account balances across the country. And while all of this might lead to the conclusions that having a defined benefit plan, like LAGERS, is an important cornerstone to retirement security in America, pension reform debates still often favor the significant reduction or elimination of defined benefit plans altogether.
In 2013, the City of Webster Groves joined the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS), a statewide public defined benefit retirement plan covering local government workers from all across Missouri. This is our story of why and how we made this giant leap forward in providing retirement benefits to our employees, and, we believe, in ultimately enhancing service to our citizens.
Jackie Barnett, PHR, SHRM-CP is a long-term public employee at the City of Columbia, MO. She has completed 23 years of service and is the HR Manager responsible for payroll support and benefits for over 2000 employees. The City of Columbia has recently engaged LAGERS to do on-site meetings for its employees in order to better inform them on the value of a LAGERS pension. Since pensions are a great tool to attract, but also retain quality employees, the City wants to educate its employees on LAGERS in order to increase retention among City employees. This is her account of their experience.
This week we are celebrating public servants during Public Service Recognition Week. It's a time to take a moment to observe the men and women that make our communities go. At LAGERS, we have the pleasure of serving the public servants with whom we interact with daily. We have collected many stories from these wonderful people over the years and would like to share some of those stories here as we say THANK YOU to all the public servants out there!
In my office, over the back of one of the chairs at a small conference table, hangs a precious gift I received from the Jefferson City Fire Department – an old firefighter coat that was worn and retired from service. Just an old, smoke-filled coat... that means so much more.
You may be wondering why a LAGERS blog would focus on Developmental Disability Awareness. As all of us at LAGERS know, our members are exceptional people. They are "Salt of the Earth" people, people who make our communities flourish and shine. And among our member employers are "Senate Bill 40" agencies. Senate Bill 40 employers, named after the Senate Bill that established them, provide for the employment, residential, and related service needs for people with developmental disabilities in Missouri. LAGERS members who are employed by SB 40 employers are made up of social workers, case workers, administrators and others whose primary focus is to assist people with developmental disabilities in meeting their needs so they can gain more independence and inclusion within their communities. Not only are our Senate Bill 40 employees special to us and our communities, but so are the people they serve within our communities.
LAGERS retirees provide strength for their communities' economy by re-investing their hard-earned retirement benefits back into their communities. For example, in Boone County last year, there were 611 retirees who, combined with other LAGERS beneficiaries, received over 11 million dollars from LAGERS benefits. This income is used by retirees and their families to purchase goods and services within their community. This increases the assets and strength of local area businesses, who, in return, expand their businesses and employment opportunities. There is little doubt the bones of any community consist, in large part, of the businesses found within the community. LAGERS retirees provide the calcium for these bones by providing economic strength through their LAGERS benefits.
Local government service is not for everyone. It takes employees and officials who are willing to invest time in their community and deeply care about building quality of life. There are so many areas of life that local government touches – from streets to sewers, schools to streams, youth programs to public safety, community art to secure online services– the people who serve must invest time to learn about and address a wide variety of issues, all to make their community stronger.
I was recently invited to the National Association of Police Organizations annual conference to speak regarding Communicating the Value of Public Service and also participate in a panel discussing Plan Funding and Design.The conference focus was best practices in attracting and retaining the best possible public servants and re-instilling value, pride and commitment to community service.It was truly an honor to be part of a group so dedicated to making a difference and proactively moving our communities forward.The caring of so many across the country was humbling and inspiring.