TRS Bill Held – Now Limits COLAs to Once Annually for All Educators & Prohibits Use of Unused Sick Leave Toward Retirement for New Hires
The House Retirement Committee revised
, which initially sought multiple changes to the current structure of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). (The most current version of HB 109 is not yet available. PAGE will post a link to it when it is.) Changes to TRS under the bill as amended by the committee today would be limited to two components: excluding unused sick leave for newly hired teachers only and limiting cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to once a year for all current and future TRS members. The committee is expected to vote on the revised version of HB 109 next week. This allows educators and other stakeholders time to review the latest version and share feedback with lawmakers.
Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), the committee chair and author of the bill, explained that his intent in proposing changes to TRS is to bolster its long-term sustainability. He also noted that the changes are based on findings from
a study by the Georgia Department of Audits
. Early versions of the bill included changes to the average final salary calculation, a cap on annual payments to retirees, and eligibility requirements. At Benton’s suggestion, the committee removed these portions of HB 109 today.
In its current form, HB 109 excludes sick days from creditable service for educators and other TRS members hired on or after July 1, 2020. Benton noted that including unused sick leave is a leading driver in TRS costs.
In addition, COLAs will be applied annually instead of the current twice a year if HB 109 is approved by the General Assembly. The COLA rate would be determined by the TRS board of trustees. According to the study from the audit department, TRS COLAs have usually outpaced the consumer price index. The changes to the TRS COLA would affect all current and future TRS members and would take effect in 2021.
Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs) questioned if the changes are needed, noting that the state’s investment in TRS in fiscal year 2021 is slated to be reduced by $191 million due to a reduction in the employer contribution rate. TRS has an unfunded liability, which TRS leadership is addressing and expects to eliminate ahead of the 30-year amortization schedule. Additional information about TRS is available in PAGE’s
After Benton presented the bill, the committee heard public comment. On behalf of PAGE members, Margaret Ciccarelli thanked Benton for his recent meeting with the PAGE Legislative Team and willingness to reconsider portions of HB 109 and to delay a vote. She strongly encouraged the development of data demonstrating the impact of the proposed TRS changes on Georgia teacher recruitment and retention efforts, TRS monthly and yearly benefits, and intended cost savings to the TRS plan. Representatives from the Georgia Retired Educators Association (GREA) and the Georgia Federation of Teachers (GFT) shared concerns about the bill. No other education organization representatives provided public comment.
The retirement committee will vote on the bill next Tuesday according to Benton.