Hall refund update: Please expect delays

PSPRS is aware that since the Arizona Supreme Court ruling in the Hall v. Elected Officials' Retirement Plan (Hall v. EORP) case, members have many questions, and everyone is anxious to begin taking action in compliance with the court's ruling.

PSPRS wishes to remind members who may be impacted that the legal process associated with the Hall lawsuit is far from complete. Members should consider avoiding personal financial decisions based on expectations associated with the Hall lawsuit and related litigation.

A few things to consider:

•             The Hall lawsuit impacts a select group of judges who are covered by the EORP retirement plan

•             There is a similar lawsuit for members of PSPRS (Parker v. PSPRS) that must be reconciled with the Hall decision

•             Court-ordered remedies for the Parker lawsuit could differ from those ordered in the Hall lawsuit

•             Hall lawsuit litigants, including EORP, the State of Arizona and the plaintiffs, have a short timeframe to ask the court to reconsider or provide further                                           guidance on issues of the court's opinion that are unclear or were not addressed

•             Following the court's decision on reconsiderations, the lawsuit will be returned to the trial court, which will address unresolved issues including method of                               refunds, legal fees and applicable interest

•             The legal process associated with the Hall - and related Parker litigation - may not conclude quickly

•             Corrections officers covered by the CORP retirement plan are not impacted because their contribution rates were never changed in SB1609, which was                                       challenged in Hall

Arizona Supreme Court strikes pension reforms

PSPRS still expected to save $475 million due to 2016 measures

ARIZONA - The Arizona Supreme Court overturned two provisions of state law designed to provide financial relief to underfunded retirement plans managed by PSPRS. The Hall v. EORP lawsuit follows a similar loss in 2014 and cements the practical and legal limits of pension reform efforts.

"The reforms struck down in recent years were the products of good faith efforts to put Arizona public safety retirement plans on a stable and sustainable path forward," PSPRS Board of Trustee Chairman Brian Tobin said. "The court's decision amplifies the importance and achievement of Proposition 124 passed into law this year. Without this key measure passed by lawmakers, Governor Ducey and the public, PSPRS-managed retirement plans, retirees, members and employers would be facing a far more uncertain future."

In Hall, the Arizona Supreme Court determined that 2011 legislative reforms that increased employee contribution rates and modest reductions to pension benefit increases were unconstitutional. The court's ruling impacts employees who were already hired or retired by the effective date of the 2011 law.

In response to the ruling, PSPRS must provide partial refunds to impacted members who under the contested law had their retirement contribution rates rise above the existing 7.65 percent level. Likewise, those who retired after the effective date of the 2011 legislation may be owed retroactive benefit increases calculated under the previous permanent benefit increase (PBI) formula.

Preliminary and unaudited estimates by PSPRS indicate that contribution refunds and retroactive pension increases could reach $220 million. The long-term adverse impacts of the Hall decision are offset by additional savings created by Senate Bill 1428 and Prop 124, both of which became law this year.

"While this ruling is unfortunate, the impacts would have been worse without the reform efforts of Prop 124 and SB1428," said PSPRS Administrator Jared Smout.

The 2016 pension reform efforts in SB1428 created a new employee benefit "tier" set for those hired after July 1, 2017, which effectively avoids the legal challenges associated with enacting laws that impact currently serving employees. In crafting Prop 124, which voters passed overwhelmingly in May, public safety stakeholders and lawmakers replaced the costly permanent benefit increase formula in the state constitution, as opposed to previous changes made in state law that were overturned in the Hall decision.

Despite the financial impact of the court's opinion in Hall, retirement plans managed by PSPRS are still expected to save an estimated $475 million in long-term costs due to changes to state law and the constitution in 2016. The combined assets of the PSPRS, Corrections Officer Retirement Plan (CORP) and the Elected Officials Retirement Plan (EORP) are currently valued at $8.7 billion.

The individual actuarial valuations for fiscal 2017-18 expected in the coming weeks will reflect pension reform efforts passed in 2011 and 2016 that mitigate the full effects of Hall but will not include the impact caused by the return of additional contributions and retroactive benefit increases. Due to the timing of the Hall ruling and the immediate lack of precise refund and benefit increase payment amounts, it is most likely that the smaller, incremental effects of the lawsuit will not be factored into individual employer funding levels and rates until the June 30, 2017, valuations are released next year.




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 The Who, When and How of carrying out the Hall decision

The Hall lawsuit decided last week impacts certain - but not all - members and retirees of all three plans managed by PSPRS. The court's decision requires payment by PSPRS-managed plans to thousands of currently contributing members and retirees.

The largest pool of those eligible to receive money back from PSPRS-managed plans are actively contributing EORP and PSPRS members who paid the increased contribution rates mandated by Senate Bill 1609 that were struck down by the courts. A far smaller section of retirees of all three plans are entitled to receive retroactive permanent benefit increases.

Please read the following information carefully in order to determine whether you are entitled to receive payment of excess employee retirement contributions or a permanent increase to retiree benefits:

I am an active member - will some of my contributions be refunded?

This depends upon members' hiring dates and whether they are a member of EORP (the defendant in the lawsuit) or PSPRS.
CORP members did not have their contribution rates changed by SB1609 and therefore are not impacted by the Hall lawsuit.
PSPRS and EORP employees hired prior to the July 1, 2011, effective date of the contribution rate increase will receive a refund of contributions in excess of the rate that was in effect when they were hired.
Those hired on or after July 1, 2011, are not affected by the Hall lawsuit as they began their employment with the understanding and agreement of employee contribution levels that were established by Senate Bill 1609 passed in 2011.

I am a retiree - will I receive a retroactive permanent benefit increase?

This depends entirely on when a person retired.
The Hall lawsuit impacts certain members of all three plans - PSPRS, CORP and EORP.
Employees who retired prior to Aug. 1, 2011, are not affected by the Hall lawsuit. This class already received retroactive permanent benefit increase (PBI) payments as a result of the Fields lawsuit in 2014.
Those who retired after July 2011 may be eligible to receive retroactive benefit increases depending on when they retired.

In order to receive a permanent benefit increase, the reinstated state law requires that a member be retired for at least two years or be retired for at least one year and be at least 55 years old by July 1 during years when investment returns are sufficient to trigger the distribution of PBIs. For the purposes of the Hall lawsuit, PSPRS-managed plans distributed PBIs in 2013 and 2014, meaning retirees must have met either the minimum retirement period and/or age criteria by July 1, 2013, or July 1, 2014, to qualify for a benefit increase under the Hall ruling.
Importantly, all PSPRS (excluding CORP and EORP) members and retirees will be impacted by Prop 124, which voters passed in May 2016. Prop 124 replaces the current permanent benefit increase (PBI) mechanism with a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for PSPRS retirees beginning July 1, 2018.

When can I expect to receive money?

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled against provisions of SB1609 and remanded the lawsuit to the trial court to determine how the payments will be made to members.
PSPRS will work with the litigants to determine how the Arizona Supreme Court's opinion will be carried out.
The process involves multiple lawsuits (Hall v. EORP and Parker v. PSPRS) and there are several outstanding issues. This includes interest determination and ultimately applying agreed upon remedies under Hall to the Parker case, which requires additional legal proceedings.
It is not likely that impacted members and retirees will receive excess contributions or retroactive PBI adjustments before the end of the calendar year.
PSPRS acknowledges and respects the court decision and all impacted members and retirees will receive all owed excess contributions and/or benefit increases.

I am an employer/payroll employee - Which contribution rate do I use?

Keep using the 11.65 percent employee contribution rate (or 13 percent for EORP) until notified otherwise by PSPRS.
The employee contribution rate for those impacted by the Hall decision will return to 7 percent for EORP members and 7.65 percent for PSPRS members upon notification by PSPRS.


Retiree's Corner

Welcome Retirees and thank you for your service. The APA has added this new information feature so that we can provide information to our retired members and their families and remind them that they are still members of our family