January 28, 2017
Mark Drum, State Secretary
FOP Succeeds! New Positions included in OPERS-LE
The FOP of Ohio is the ONLY law enforcement organization in Ohio with a full-time legislative staff. We are "cops lobbying for cops". In addition to our full time coordinator, we have eleven (11) active or retired police officers that are licensed as legislative agents for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.
Last year the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio specifically sponsored an amendment to HB520 to include certain classification of law enforcement officer into the OPERS-LE division of the pension system. The FOP was the ONLY law enforcement organization that was involved in this important piece of legislation. Below is detailed information to outline all of the provisions of the bill pertaining to the LE selection process.
New classifications were added to the OPERS law enforcement (LE) and public safety (PS) divisions. We anticipated that Amended Sub. H.B. 520 would provide a window period for officers currently in those classifications to make a choice to stay in regular OPERS or elect future contributions to go to OPERS-LE. I am happy to say that Amended Sub. H.B. 520, was passed by the legislature and was signed by the Governor on January 4.
After passage of this bill I have met with OPERS officials. They have explained the complexity of issues to be considered, by the current officers in the classifications affected, and the need for an individual to analyze their options based on their particular circumstance before making an election. The following information further explains why an individual analysis is best for our members.
The classifications affected by the changes implemented in Sub. H.B. 520 include OPERS members who have completed peace officer training, are employed full-time in any of the following positions (as defined in the Act), and whose primary duties meet the statutory eligibility standard:
Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII) investigators
Casino Control Commission gaming agents
Department of Taxation investigators
Special police officers for port authorities
Special police officers for municipal airports
Depending on when the member became employed in one of these classifications will determine whether the member is automatically included in the LE or PS division or must make an election to be included for service after the election is made.
A future member who is employed in any of the above positions on or after the act's effective date (on or about April 5) will be automatically included in the LE or PS division—depending on their primary duties. If a member is already employed in one of the positions on the Act's effective date, they will have the option to elect to participate prospectively in the LE or PS division (rather than regular OPERS).
For those eligible to make an election, it must be made within 90 days of the Act’s effective date on a form provided by OPERS. The election, once made, will apply only to future service and is irrevocable. That means that once you make the choice you may not change back in the future. Service earned prior to the election will remain regular OPERS credit, but service after that date will be LE or PS service credit.
It is important that an OPERS member, who has the option to elect, make an informed decision about the election. Depending on a member’s individual circumstances, it may be more advantageous to remain in regular OPERS.
The decision to elect may have a dramatic impact on their eligibility for retirement benefits and should be considered only after a careful evaluation of many factors and ideally, a counseling session with OPERS. All of the following factors should be evaluated prior to filing an election:
Age at the time of election
Accrued service credit—LE, PS and regular OPERS credit
Number of years until reduced (early) or unreduced retirement
The difference in estimated retirement benefits under the regular, LE, or PS divisions
Eligibility for access to health care coverage
Eligibility for disability or survivor benefits
Impact of increased employee contributions
If a member is eligible to make an election, OPERS’ staff is ready to assist them in making this important decision. It is highly recommended that eligible members contact OPERS Member Services at 1(800) 222-PERS (7377) and request a personalized counseling session, by phone or in person. While OPERS staff are not permitted to advise members whether or not to make an election, they stand ready to provide all the information needed to make an informed decision.