Gov. Matt Bevin gets pushback from NKY school district on pension plan

ERLANGER, Ky. -- Officials from a local school district said they’ll have to come up with more money to fund Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed pension plan.

Bevin got pushback from the Erlanger-Elsmere Independent School District when he promoted his “Keeping the Promise” plan on Wednesday.

Bevin’s speech came a day after he fired back at critics of a GOP plan to revamp Kentucky’s chronically underfunded public pension systems, saying they have no alternatives and warning that doing nothing is a “path to insolvency.”

Karen Kleisinger has worked for Erlanger-Elsmere schools for 28 years handling payroll and benefits. Now, she is worried she may have to retire.

If she stays, she thinks her pay might be cut three percent a year.

“It's hard when people are coming to me right now worried, ‘Should I retire - what am I going to lose,’ and a lot of rumors going around - it's very scary for the employees,” Kleisinger said.

After speaking with Erlanger business leaders, Bevin said that assessment is incorrect.

“I don't know where they're seeing that,” Bevin said. “That's not actually anywhere in anything. Nothing. There is no decrease. It is a 3 percent contribution for their health care coverage. That's it.”

The governor said the plan could cost $360 million, which is 20 percent of the state’s budget.

School district officials say that could cost them a million dollars a year that they don’t have.

But Bevin said that amount would be fair.

“Is that modest relative to these folks if they were in social security? Yes. This is called shared sacrifice in some measure,” he said.

Erlanger-Elsmere Schools Superintendent Kathlyn Burkhardt says the extra cost means district-wide cuts.

“We're talking all day kindergarten, extracurricular programs, any and all types of services we provide to students,” Burkhardt said.

Bevin urged business leaders and citizens to call on their legislators to pass the plan.

“Adult level behavior and the kind of responsibility that has been needed for a long time is what's needed now in Frankfort,” Bevin said.

Bevin and the state’s top two Republican legislative leaders last week unveiled a plan aimed at salvaging one of the worst-funded public retirement systems in the country. The governor plans to call for a special legislative session before year’s end to tackle the pension issue.

Under the plan, most of Kentucky’s future public employees would not get guaranteed pension payments. The plan to move most new hires into a 401(k)-style system would still put pressure on taxpayers, who would be legally required to make annual payments of nearly $2 billion to the system. 

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