Retirees with CalPERS pensions lose part-time government jobs

No immediate impact on city of Auburn but Placer County government makes cuts
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Changes in Public Employees Retirement System law that clarify how retired public employees can work for government on a part-time basis are resulting in job losses. Placer County did not answer a request originally made Wednesday for information on how many part-time employees already on a PERS pension had been let go. But one worker said this week that she was told that new Assembly Bill 1028 language meant she was cut from her job this month. Serene Gilliland, a Placer County retiree, said she was working for the county’s Adult System of Care and filling in for another employee on medical leave. The loss of the $12-an-hour position wasn’t creating a hardship for Gilliland but she said she wants to continue working. “It’s just too bad,” Gilliland said. “I really love my job. It’s true I already am getting a pension but it’s small.” Supervisor Jim Holmes said that the county’s understanding of the new bill, which was adopted last September, is that part-time retiree employment can only be temporary and those part-time employees have to specialize. “We’re going to see what this means,” Holmes said. On first impression, the PERS change will mean that bailiffs hired in the past from the ranks of retired sheriff’s employees may not be able to work, he said. “They’ve been able to work part-time so they don’t take cops off the street,” Holmes said. A part-time Placer County Office of Education employee as well as District 3 supervisor, Holmes said one impact will be that when regular school janitors are sick, the district won’t be able to bring an experienced retiree who already knows the school system in on a part-time basis. “It hurts these people and it hurts the education office,” Holmes said. “It’s far-reaching and it’s going to affect many people. It’s also going to cost more money.” CalPERS, which handles pension issues in California, is handling inquiries from several local government jurisdictions on the changes, said spokesperson Amy Norris. Norris said that many retired part-timers don’t need to be fired under the new law as long as they were hired properly. Retirees can work up to 960 hours yearly without jeopardizing their pensions. “If they were hired improperly in permanent part-time positions, that’s not allowed,” Norris said. “We’re working with several jurisdictions to get it cleared up.” While Placer County was unable to provide information on the local ramifications of the changes in PERS law, Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson said there was no immediate impact to the city. Auburn has relied on part-time government pension recipients in the past but the current operating structure doesn’t utilize them, he said. Placerville reported this past week that it had lost the services of 10 retired annuitants because of the change. Richardson said that the city would have liked to have used retirees but it appears that avenue is now blocked. “It eliminates a cost-effective option in the future,” Richardson said.