Kentucky Retirement Systems
The Year Ahead
2015 is the Year of the Sheep (Goat) according to the Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Sheep begins on February 19, the day of our first 2015 KRS Board of Trustees meeting. – also the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Sheep are a favorite animal among the Chinese; they are known to be calm and serene. Our wish for KRS and its members is that 2015 will be a calm and serene year!
A primary focus early this year is the 2015 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly. The General Assembly convened on January 6 for four days to, among other things, elect leaders and make committee assignments. The legislature then adjourned until Tuesday, February 3, when it reconvened to conduct the final 26 days of the short 30-day session. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn the 2015 session on March 24. This short session is a non-budget session. The current two-year state budget was enacted during the 2014 legislative session. During the odd-year short session, it takes a three fifths majority vote of both the House and the Senate to make changes in the budget. Therefore, any additional appropriation of funds to the seriously underfunded KERS nonhazardous pension plan is highly unlikely this session.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there will be no legislation enacted which impacts KRS and its 348,000 plus members. A few of the key legislative proposals that have already been introduced and that may be considered and passed are the following:
• Senate Bill 22 – a proposal that will require all state pension systems to adopt by reference in a regulation a placement agent disclosure policy. (KRS adopted such policy several years ago).
• Senate Bill 94 – Establishing a KERS nonhazardous trust fund and requiring savings from the reduction of state debt to be placed in the fund.
• House Bill 62 – a proposal to establish a means for certain types of employers to exit the KERS and CERS systems, but only if the employer’s fair share of the unfunded liability is calculated and paid.
• House Bill 108 – The KRS “housekeeping” bill that will clarify statutory ambiguities, ensure that statutes comply with federal requirements and provide new authorities to KRS to allow operational efficiencies and monetary savings.
• House Bill 287 – Establishing new requirements for filling elected member vacancies on the KRS Board of Trustees.
As the legislative session progresses, we will keep the membership informed about the status of legislation affecting KRS and its members via our website and Facebook page.
• Other significant matters on this year’s agenda include:
• Monthly appearances before the Kentucky Public Pension Oversight Board;
• Asset liability modeling study that will largely determine the future allocation of our funds among investment asset classes;
• A study to determine if our actuary has performed good work and whether our actuarial assumptions are reasonable;
• A major effort to reduce backlogs that have developed over the past few years because we have been so occupied with pension reforms and many other matters.
As the 2015 year progresses, we will continue to make efforts to engage with members through our website, Facebook page, webinars, YouTube channel; telephone system; and mailings. I am particularly proud of our staff for one accomplishment in this area during 2014. During 2014, our staff took over 209,000 calls from active members, retirees, and others, touching on a variety of retirement subjects such as retirement eligibility, member self-service features, health insurance open enrollment, scheduling office appointments, and coordinating refund and retirement paperwork submission. Usually, we receive about 800 calls per day. Our average call handle time is approximately 5 1/2 minutes. In addition to phone calls, KRS staff also replied to over 3700 emails and processed 19,330 benefit estimates and service purchase requests.
For those members that need to call but prefer not to wait on the phone to speak to a representative, during peak periods of call volume, KRS has implemented a new Callback Assist feature. When this option is selected, it allows the caller to retain his or her place in queue without having to remain on the phone. Callers are prompted to leave their name, KRS member ID, and phone number for the return call. When a counselor is available for the call, callers will receive an automated callback, connecting them with a counselor. Since its implementation in September 2014, this feature has been used by almost 18,000 callers.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know about other changes that will help to improve our member communications. Let’s make the Chinese Year of the Sheep a calm, serene year marked by improved KRS customer service.