Taxpayers burdened by teachers’ retirement

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To the editor:
I can sympathize with John Schrieber and his letter of May 12, where he had difficulty obtaining a refund from Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System (KTRS), being only a substitute and having no intention of receiving benefits.  I had the same problem in 2004.
As Paul Harvey used to say: “And now for the rest of the story.”  A KTRS memo of May 17, 2002, states, in part, “Part-time and substitute positions eligible for KTRS membership will be required to contribute to KTRS effective July 1, 2002.  This will bring all persons filling teaching positions and other KTRS positions under the KTRS field of membership.  Members will be required to pay 9.855% while the employer will be required to pay 13.105%.”  
John Schrieber, along with myself and others, were simply trying to get a refund of our 9.855%. I am not sure if the employer is interpreted as Harrison County or the Commonwealth of Kentucky (both taxpayer supported entities), but presumably one of them made the 13.105% contribution.
Here’s the real rub. I have a 2004 letter from Gene Wilhoit, Commissioner of Education, where he goes into great length citing KRS 161.612 and 161.550 regarding the KTRS contributions.  In it he states: “In other words, the State’s total contribution to the retirement system as measured as a percentage of total teacher payroll remains with the retirement system to pay all the retirement benefits received by its members and their survivors, regardless of whether any individual member refunds his or her account.”  
To me this says the KTRS held on to the 13.105% contributed by the State and used it for the benefit of teachers’ retirement, even though it had been obtained by virtue of a non-participating substitute teacher.  
Where is the fairness to the taxpayer?  Multiply that effect by the 120 counties that John mentioned!
A Jan. 13, ’05 Cynthiana Democrat article stated that “KTRS distributed more than $1 billion in benefits statewide, with retired public educators in Harrison County receiving more than $4.5 million in combined retirement and medical benefits.”  I wonder how much of that was funded by the 13.105% contributions made on behalf of the substitute teachers not participating in the KTRS?
Our representative, Tom McKee, stated on May 18, 2004, that “The Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System is outstanding and provides an effective retirement system for our educators.”  That may be, but how fair is it to the Kentucky taxpayer?

Ronald B. Blackburn