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SCERS WEBSITE HANDBOOK
MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION


Compulsory Membership

When you enter the employ of the County or listed member districts as a regular employee occupying a permanent full-time or part-time position as provided in the County Annual Salary Resolution (Ordinance) or by member district resolution, your membership in SCERS is compulsory. SCERS active member districts are Carmichael Parks and Recreation District, Elk Grove Cemetery District, Fair Oaks Cemetery District, Galt Arno Cemetery District, Mission Oaks Parks and Recreation District, Orangevale Parks and Recreation District, Sacramento Employment and Training Agency and Sunrise Parks and Recreation District.

Optional Membership

If you are a newly hired regular employee who has attained the age of sixty, you may waive membership in SCERS upon proper application to the SCERS Board. Such waiver is irrevocable.

Excluded From Membership

Excluded by Law

The County Employees' Retirement Law of 1937 specifically excludes the following classes from membership:

  • Persons employed under contract for temporary services requiring professional or highly technical skills.
  • All elected officials who do not declare their intentions to become members of the Retirement System.
  • Anyone who entered County service after July 1, 1941, and who is receiving a County pension.
  • Judges of the Superior Court.
  • Judges of the Municipal Court.
  • District officers and employees unless the governing body adopts a resolution for inclusion in the Retirement System and the Board of Retirement consents by a majority vote.

Excluded by Board Bylaws

The County Employees' Retirement Law of 1937 authorizes the SCERS Board, in its Bylaws, to exclude from membership certain classes of employees. The following are excluded by Board Bylaws:

  • Employees working in an "on-call" status and not occupying a "salary ordinance" position.
  • Intermittent or temporary employees.
  • Employees receiving compensation of less than $80.00 per month.

MEMBERSHIP CATEGORIES

Membership categories are authorized by statute and made applicable to SCERS when adopted by Resolution of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. Membership categories are not created by action taken by the SCERS Board. As a new, eligible employee, you enter one of five categories of membership: (1) First Tier Safety Category, (2) Second Tier Safety Category, (3) First Tier Miscellaneous Category, (4) Second Tier Miscellaneous Category, or (5) Third Tier Miscellaneous Category.

Membership In More Than One Category

Your category of membership is contingent upon four factors; i.e., date of hire, position classification, applicable bargaining agreement, and (until recent change in law) age at entry. During your career, you could be credited with service in more than one category, although a period of service in one category may not be credited as service in any other category.

How Individual Categories Differ

The First and Second Tier Safety Categories generally provide higher benefit amounts at retirement than First, Second or Third Tier Miscellaneous Categories and require correspondingly higher member and employer contributions. Similarly, the First Tier and Third Tier Miscellaneous Categories provide higher benefit amounts than the Second Tier Miscellaneous Category and require correspondingly higher member and employer contributions. See SCERS' PLAN/TIER COMPARISON SERVICE RETIREMENT FORMULAS for details on benefit amounts.

Safety Category, First and Second Tiers

If you are appointed to a permanent position in law enforcement or fire suppression, and certain other classifications that are authorized in the County Annual Salary Resolution or by member district resolution, you become a member of the Safety Category, in either the First or Second Tier. Your date of hire into membership employment as well as the bargaining unit to which you belong, are the determining factors for Safety First or Second Tier Membership.

First Tier Miscellaneous Category

All employees appointed to permanent positions that are authorized in the County Annual Salary Resolution or by member district resolution but who are not eligible for Safety membership, and who have a membership employment date prior to September 27, 1981, are members of the First Tier Miscellaneous Category. First Tier is closed to new hires except for those who have prior First Tier membership and who left their contributions on deposit with SCERS upon termination of membership employment as "deferred" or "reciprocity"; or those who had prior First Tier membership and withdrew contributions on deposit with SCERS upon termination of SCERS membership employment but elect to redeposit such contributions with SCERS concurrent with SCERS membership re-employment, Category Provisions for Re-hired Employees.

Second and Third Tier Miscellaneous Categories

All employees appointed to permanent positions that are authorized in the County Annual Salary Resolution or by member district resolution but who are not eligible for Safety or First Tier Miscellaneous membership, who have a membership employment date on or after September 27, 1981, are members of either the Second Tier Miscellaneous or Third Tier Miscellaneous Category. Your date of hire into membership as well as the bargaining unit to which you belong, are the determining factors for Second or Third Tier Miscellaneous membership.

Please contact the Retirement Administration office if you have any questions about your tier placement in Safety or Miscellaneous categories.

Category Provisions For Re-hired Employees

In certain cases, an employee newly hired into membership employment, may, for ongoing service, be reinstated into membership in a category for which (s)he had prior SCERS membership.

If you are an eligible employee who had prior membership employment, you may, for ongoing service, elect reinstatement into a prior membership category only if you do so concurrently with your re-employment. You should make such election in writing within ten calendar days of re-entrance into membership employment. To determine eligibility for this benefit, a returning employee should inquire with the SCERS office immediately upon re-employment.


All questions regarding this matter should be referred to SCERS


VESTING

You become a "vested" member upon completion of five years of credited service. "Vesting" means that you have met the requirements to leave contributions on deposit with SCERS even if employment is terminated, and to retain a right to some or all of the applicable retirement benefits provided by the employer. (Employee-made contributions are always fully vested.)

RECIPROCITY WITH OTHER PUBLIC RETIREMENT SYSTEMS

Reciprocal retirement benefits may be available to you if you leave SCERS membership service to accept a position with another qualified public agency covered by the Public Employees' Retirement System ("CalPERS"), or public agencies having a reciprocity agreement with CalPERS, or with reciprocal county systems (and vice versa, i.e., if you leave a reciprocal system to accept a position with Sacramento County or a SCERS member district). As of January 1, 1999, reciprocity also applies to the State Teacher’s Retirement System ("CalSTRS") defined benefit plan. Reciprocal county systems under the 1937 Act are:

Alameda Los Angeles San Bernardino Sonoma
Contra Costa Marin San Diego Stanislaus
Imperial Mendocino San Joaquin Tulare
Fresno Merced San Mateo Ventura
Kern Orange Santa Barbara

Public agencies having reciprocity agreements with CalPERS include:

City of Concord City and County of San Francisco
Contra Costa Water Agency City of San Clemente (Miscellaneous)
City of Costa Mesa (Safety) City of San Jose
City of Los Angeles County of San Luis Obispo
City of Oakland (Miscellaneous) East Bay Municipal Utility District
City of Sacramento East Bay Regional Park
City of San Diego Southern California Rapid Transit

If you are interested in changing membership under reciprocity, you should contact CalPERS in advance.

You will have certain rights and obligations if:

You become a member of CalPERS, CalSTRS, a reciprocal city system, or the retirement system of a reciprocal county within one hundred and eighty days after separating from SCERS membership service and,

You elect to leave your contributions on deposit with SCERS and inform SCERS of the name of the county or agency in which you will be employed or are employed. Contributions may not be withdrawn while under reciprocity. Concurrent or overlapping service under two reciprocal agencies is not permitted under reciprocity.

Benefits which may be available under reciprocity agreements are:

Your rate of contribution to the state or county retirement system may be based on the age at which you entered the first system.

Continuation of membership will continue your right to the basic death benefit and to disability retirement.

Service to your credit under each system will be added together in order to determine eligibility for retirement under the several systems.

Your retirement allowance may be based on your highest average compensation in any reciprocal system, if you retire from all systems concurrently.

MEMBERSHIP RECORDS

Upon employment with the County or member district, you are asked to complete a Member's Enrollment Affidavit form provided by SCERS. This contains your name, address, marital status, and other pertinent information, and is the form by which you designate a beneficiary to receive applicable benefits in event of your death before retirement. If you change name, address, or marital status, or if you desire to change your beneficiary information, you must complete and submit to SCERS a new affidavit. (See also "Spousal Sign-Off"). This affidavit and copies of all correspondence to or from SCERS regarding your accounts are permanently filed with SCERS. A facsimile of the affidavit is included as the last page of this Handbook. Additionally, a record is kept on microfiche or computer of all transactions affecting the retirement account balance and service credit accumulation.

MEMBERS' ANNUAL STATEMENTS

Each year SCERS publishes and distributes to you an annual statement which indicates the following information:

  • Your name, address of record, and the last 4 digits of your social security number.
  • The accumulated contributions which is the total amount of your employee-paid retirement contributions to SCERS including payment made for "current service" and "purchasable service".
  • The accumulated interest which is the amount of interest that has accumulated in the account from the date of entry into membership to the effective date of the statement.
  • The interest rates indicated are the semiannual rates applied to members' account balances as of June 30th and December 31st of the year of the statement. The A.P.R. or annual percentage rate indicates the approximate compounding effect of the semiannual interest crediting. The rates of interest applied are determined semi-annually by the Board of Retirement. Currently an actuarial evaluation is made each year and a report is issued for review by the SCERS Board. One of the recommendations of the actuary pertains to the expected future yield of the system's investments; i.e., the "interest assumption rate." The Board has in most instances credited to members' accounts either at the interest assumption rate or the rate for the current year of actual earnings of the SCERS portfolio.
  • The total service credits and equivalent years of service which is based on a full-time work year of 2,088 service credits. The total amount includes service from date of entry into membership to the end of the last full pay period in December of the statement year, for which the payday is on or before December 31, as well as additional credit purchases. This amount does not include service with a reciprocal governmental agency.

Benefits payable to you or to your eligible survivors may be based in part upon the total service credited to your account. A service "credit" may be defined as an hour's pay for which a retirement contribution was deducted. A full-time, permanent employee generally earns eighty service credits during a normal biweekly pay period. There are two thousand and eighty-eight service credits to a "work year," one hundred and seventy-four service credits to a "work month," and eight service credits to a "work day", except for employees who participate in alternate work schedules.

Some members may elect to purchase additional service credit in SCERS. (See "Purchasable Service"). The purchase of additional service credits may be achieved through payroll deductions. The accounts receivable balance due identified on your annual statement indicates the amount remaining to be paid for purchasable service through payroll deductions as of the effective date of the annual statement.

MEMBER CONTRIBUTIONS

SCERS was established on a contributory principle; i.e., all eligible employees are required to contribute to SCERS. Under this principle, a portion of the cost of the benefits to be derived is paid directly by you in the form of a deduction from each salary warrant. The contributions you make are held in reserve and credited with interest to purchase an annuity at retirement. The County or member district matches or exceeds the annuity provided by your individual contributions.

Amount of Contributions

The County Employees' Retirement Law of 1937 specifies certain rates of contribution for members, which rates are adjusted periodically by the Board of Supervisors upon the recommendation of the consulting actuary and the Board of Retirement. They are based upon actuarial valuations of the retirement system using the latest statistical information available as to the active, inactive, and retired membership. These rates are applied to your salary (see Compensation Earnable) and may differ among members according to retirement category type, date of entry into membership, age at entry into membership, and collective bargaining agreements between the members' representative organizations and the County or member districts.

Taxability of Contributions

Your contributions are usually made through regular payroll deductions. Contributions are either before-tax dollars, or after-tax dollars. Before-tax dollars are taken from your pay before taxes are withheld. This reduces your taxable income and, therefore, the amount you pay in current payroll taxes. You (or your beneficiary) will be taxed on these contributions and any interest they earn when you receive them as a payment, upon withdrawal, retirement, or upon your death.

After-tax dollars are taken from your pay after taxes are withheld. This means you pay the taxes up front and you won’t have to pay taxes on those contributions again when you receive them as a payment. However, the interest on after-tax contributions will be taxable when you receive it as a payment.

Some employers pay a portion of their employees’ member contributions. If your employer pays your contributions with before-tax dollars, they are called employer pick-up contributions. Employer pick-up contributions are included in the account balance that is available for a refund.

If your employer pays your contributions with after-tax dollars, they are called employer subventions. Employer subventions are not included in the account balance available for a refund.

Borrowing From Accounts Not Allowed

Your contributions on deposit in the retirement fund cannot be withdrawn while you remain an active member of SCERS, while in "temporary" status after a period of permanent employment, or while you remain in employment covered by a reciprocity agreement between SCERS and either the Public Employees' Retirement System or a reciprocal county retirement system. Therefore, you may not borrow money from your SCERS retirement fund account.

Withdrawal

If you terminate SCERS membership employment and does not elect deferred retirement or reciprocity   you are entitled to the return of retirement contributions, including interest. Refunds are made upon proper application to SCERS on a Disposition Of Retirement Contributions form provided during the exit interview. If no exit interview occurs, the form may be obtained from SCERS, the County's Department of Employee Relations/Benefits, or member district's personnel office. If you do not submit a request, you will be forwarded a formal notice, and if no response is received within five years thereafter, all contributions, including interest, will escheat to SCERS. Although the law permits the Board to withhold all or part of the contributions for up to six months, in order to assure correct account balances, SCERS will normally process refunds two biweekly pay periods after the end of the pay period in which employment was terminated. However, when you appeal an involuntary termination with the Civil Service Commission or when SCERS is joined in an action involving the courts, SCERS generally can not process the refund of contributions until the action is resolved. If you accept a refund of contributions, you terminate membership in SCERS and forfeit any further benefits. (See also  Spousal Sign-Off)

CREDITABLE SERVICE

Defined

Creditable service is service which may be credited to your account with SCERS.

Types of Creditable Service

Prior Service

If you were employed by the County prior to the establishment of SCERS, i.e., July 1, 1941, you may be eligible to receive retirement credit for this service.

Military Leave of Absence

Sacramento County has elected under certain circumstances to contribute retirement contributions and give retirement credit for any member of SCERS who resigned, or obtained a leave of absence, to enter and did enter the armed forces of the United States, and thereafter returned to County service within prescribed limits.

Your SCERS membership records are so noted and your military leave time is considered in the calculation of your benefits at retirement. This service may not be used to meet minimum eligibility requirements for SCERS benefits.

If you believe you may qualify for this benefit, you should contact SCERS and be prepared to provide photostatic copies of your draft orders and military discharge certificate for verification of such service credit.

Current Service

You contribute regularly by payroll deductions to SCERS and are credited with one hour service "credit" for every one hour worked and for which the appropriate contribution has been deducted.

Purchasable Service

There are six types of purchasable service which may be credited to your account.

Redeposits

If you are an employee who worked for the County or a member district previously and, upon termination of employment, elected to withdraw accumulated contributions plus accumulated interest from SCERS, upon reemployment with the County or district, you may receive credit for this past service by redepositing the withdrawn amount plus the interest which would have been applied to your account had the money not been withdrawn. (For important consideration see "Category Provisions for Re-hired Employees")

Premembership

Effective November 1, 1970, entry into SCERS began for eligible employees upon date of permanent employment. If you have an employment date prior to November 1, 1970, you did not enter SCERS simultaneously upon employment. You may be eligible now to purchase service credit for your "premembership" service. If you did not enter SCERS simultaneously upon membership employment or if you worked in County or district service in a nonpermanent position before entering membership, you may obtain retirement credit for this nonmembership service. To obtain this credit, you must deposit with SCERS an amount equal to the contributions which would have been made to SCERS based upon the rate first applicable for such service plus the interest which would have been applied to those contributions. (For important consideration see "Category Provisions for Re-hired Employees")

Temporary Service Between Two Periods of SCERS Membership

To obtain credit for temporary service between two periods of SCERS membership employment, you must deposit with SCERS an amount equal to the contributions which would have been made, at the rate first applicable upon return to permanent status, plus interest which would have accrued had the funds been on deposit.

Medical Leave of Absence/State Disability Insurance (SDI)

If you return to active service following an uncompensated leave of absence due to illness, or leave of absence while on State Disability Insurance, you may receive service credit for the period of such absence upon the payment of the contributions that the you would have paid during such period together with the interest that such contributions would have earned had they been on deposit if you were not absent.

Family Medical Leave

Under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (FRA), you may make arrangements with SCERS' office to pay retirement contributions, and thereby receive up to 12 weeks of retirement service credit during a period of unpaid family medical leave which is approved under the guidelines of the FMLA. To be eligible to receive credit, these arrangements must be made at the time the leave is approved. All questions regarding this benefit must be directed to SCERS staff.

Public Service Credit

The Board of Supervisors adopted a section of the Retirement Law which provides for the purchase of service credits with SCERS for service in another public agency for which the member is not eligible to receive a pension or retirement allowance. Agreement relative to rights to purchase public service credit are expected to essentially follow the guidelines set for such purposes in a prior offering in 1975-1977, with the exception of the requirement in the prior offering for a member to have made an “election” and the “Notice of Election” form to have been filed with SCERS during the period of September 1, 1975, through August 31, 1977.

Effective May 13, 2003 SCERS members will be permitted to “elect” to purchase up to four years of eligible public service credit at any time prior to their actual retirement date.

If you are an eligible employee, you may initiate the purchase of public service credit at any time prior to retirement, but must complete the total purchase within five years of the first payment or prior to retirement, whichever comes first. Public service credit may not be used to meet minimum eligibility requirements for SCERS benefits; however, it may be used to reach the thirty year cessation of retirement contributions for certain members. (See "Cessation of Employee Contributions")

If you believe you may be entitled to purchase service credit, you should contact SCERS for assistance in determining eligibility.

Sick Leave

Upon retirement for "service" (see "Service Retirement" ), employees will be credited with accumulated sick leave which is used in the calculation of service retirement benefits. If you are a Sacramento County employee classified as "management" or are covered by a bargaining unit agreement including such a provision, you may be paid for one-half of accumulated sick leave and have the balance credited toward service. (This is part of the County's benefit package for management and designated employees and is paid out of County funds, not SCERS funds). Accumulated sick leave hours may not be used to meet minimum eligibility requirements for SCERS benefits.

Why Creditable Service is Important

Eligibility

You become eligible for benefits upon the accumulation of service credits. The amount of service credits required for specific benefits is prescribed by the retirement law.

Benefit Amounts

The amount of benefit payable to you or your survivors may vary according to the total service credited to your account.

30-Year Cut-Off for Member Contributions to SCERS

If you are an employee who was a member of SCERS on March 7, 1973, and you remained in membership continuously until credited with thirty years of service, you are not required to contribute to the retirement system, although you continue to earn service credits which will be used in the calculation of retirement benefits.

If you are a Safety member of SCERS and are earning benefits under Government Code § 31664.1 (which provides a retirement formula described as “3% at 50”), you are also not required to contribute to the retirement system after you earn 30 years of service.

Because SCERS does not recognize all types of service purchases for purposes of determining the cut-off period described above, we encourage you to contact our office if you are approaching 30 years of service with SCERS and are unsure if or when this feature applies to you.


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