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General Assembly Retirement System

Service Credit- Applies to Individuals Elected to the General Assembly Prior to November 2012 Only

Earned Service

GARS service is credited based on a legislative term beginning the Monday following the date of election (see chart below). A full year of service credit is given to GARS members upon completion of a legislative session provided they do not retire, terminate employment, leave office or die before the end of the term. Special election members who serve any portion of a year will receive prorated service credit, but may establish credit for the entire year by paying into the system the same contribution amount that full term members paid plus interest.

Term

Beginning Date

Ending Date

2008 – 2009

11/10/2008

11/7/2009

2009 – 2010

11/8/2009

11/7/2010

2010 – 2011

11/8/2010

11/11/2011

2011 – 2012

11/12/2011

11/11/2012

 

Service Purchases

While you are an active member, you may establish service credit for various types of previous public employment, leaves of absence, and up to five years of non-qualified service. You may establish service credit through a lump-sum payment, an installment service purchase (pre- or post-tax basis, plus interest), or a tax-deferred rollover from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), 401(k) plan, 401(a) eligible plan, 403(b) plan, or 457 plan. You may purchase each type of service credit once within a fiscal year (July 1 – June 30). If you are purchasing service to meet retirement eligibility, please contact PEBA Retirement Benefits for more information. Payment for service purchases, including installment purchases, must be made in full prior to your date of retirement or termination. If you previously purchased periods of part-time credit or previously earned periods of part-time credit, you may be eligible to purchase additional service credit at an additional cost. Please contact PEBA Retirement Benefits for more information.

Some types of purchased service may not be used in determining insurance eligibility. Contact your employer or health insurance provider for insurance coverage questions. If you are covered by state health insurance, contact the PEBA Insurance Benefits at 803-734-0678 or toll free at 888-260-9430 for eligibility information.

Types of Service Purchases
Transfer of Service from SCRS or PORS

An active GARS member may transfer non-concurrent service credit previously purchased or earned as an SCRS or PORS member. The cost is based on the GARS earnable compensation and contribution rates in effect at the time the service was rendered plus interest, minus any SCRS or PORS contributions plus interest in your account for the same period of service being transferred.

Transfer of Service from GARS to SCRS, PORS or JSRS

Former GARS non-concurrent service may be transferred from GARS to SCRS, PORS or JSRS. The cost is 4 percent of current SCRS earnable compensation, 5 percent of PORS earnable compensation, and 10 percent of current JSRS earnable compensation for each year to be transferred, minus GARS contributions plus interest in your account for the same period of service being transferred.

Public Service

You may establish service credit for any period of paid public service for which you do not already have service credit in another defined benefit plan from which you may receive an annuity. Public service constitutes service as an employee of the government of the United States, a state, or political subdivision of the United States. The cost calculation is based in part on your current age and service credit, as well as your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation at the time PEBA receives your service purchase request. The cost, which is determined by PEBA’s independent actuary, will not be less than 16 percent of your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation for each year purchased.

Educational Service (K-12 only)

You may establish service credit for any period of paid classroom teaching consisting of grades kindergarten through 12 in a public, private, or sectarian school for which you do not already have service credit in another defined benefit plan from which you may receive an annuity. The cost calculation is based in part on your current age and service credit, as well as your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation at the time PEBA receives your service purchase request. The cost, which is determined by PEBA’s independent actuary, will not be less than 16 percent of your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation for each year purchased.

Military Service

You may establish up to six years of service credit for any period of military service for which you do not already have service credit. This includes service in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Select Reserves, and Army or Air National Guard.The cost calculation is based in part on your current age and service credit, as well as your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation at the time PEBA receives your service purchase request. The cost, which is determined by PEBA’s independent actuary, will not be less than 16 percent of your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation for each year purchased. Your discharge from service must be under conditions other than dishonorable. Under guidelines set forth by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), you may also arrange in advance with your employer to continue contributing to your account while on active duty military leave or make the contributions after returning from military leave within a period of three times longer than your military leave, but not more than five years.

Leave of Absence

Active members on an employer-approved leave of absence who return to covered employment within four years may purchase service credit for the employer-approved leave period for which they do not already have service credit, up to a maximum of two years per leave of absence. The leave of absence must be with an employer covered by the Retirement Systems.The cost calculation is based in part on your current age and service credit, as well as your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation at the time PEBA receives your service purchase request. The cost, which is determined by PEBA’s independent actuary, will not be less than 16 percent of your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation for each year purchased.

Workers’ Compensation

You may establish service credit for a period while you were on a leave of absence and receiving workers’ compensation benefits. The cost is based on contributions plus interest using your earnable compensation at the time of injury. You may also arrange in advance with your employer to continue contributing to your account while you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits.  

Previously Withdrawn Service

If you left employment and received a refund of your GARS contributions plus interest, you may re-establish this service upon returning to active membership. You must repay the amount you withdrew plus interest to the date your request is received. An active member of GARS may purchase service previously withdrawn from SCRS or PORS directly into GARS. The cost is based on the GARS salary and contribution rates in effect at the time the service was rendered plus interest.

Non-Qualified Service

Active members who have five or more years of earned service credit may establish up to five years of non-qualified service. The cost calculation is based in part on your current age and service credit, as well as your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation at the time PEBA receives your service purchase request. The cost, which is determined by PEBA’s independent actuary, will not be less than 35 percent of your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation for each year purchased.

State Optional Retirement Program (State ORP) Service

You may purchase service credit for your years of participation in the State ORP. The cost calculation is based in part on your current age and service credit, as well as your career highest fiscal year earnable compensation at the time PEBA receives your service purchase request. The cost, which is determined by PEBA’s independent actuary, will not be less than 16 percent of your career highest fiscal year compensation for each year purchased. You may not purchase service for a period of State ORP participation for which you may receive a retirement annuity from another defined benefit retirement plan. State ORP service that is established in SCRS through the service purchase process is considered earned service for the determination of the SCRS minimum service requirement for benefit eligibility. Salaries associated with State ORP service purchased in SCRS will be considered for possible inclusion in the calculation of a member’s average final compensation.

Special Contributing Member

Upon establishing eight years of service credit (purchased and earned) in GARS, you are eligible to become a special contributing member should you cease to be an active member of GARS. You must apply within six months of GARS termination using the General Assembly Retirement System Special Contributing Member Election (Form 2140) to become a special contributing member.

You may contribute to your GARS account in this status until you reach 22 years of service credit or through the end of the year prior to reaching age 60, whichever occurs first. SCRS service credit earned as governor and/or lieutenant governor counts toward the eight year service requirement needed to become a special contributing member.

Example:
4 years service as GARS member
+ 4 years SCRS service as Lt. Governor
= 8 years
(upon reaching eight years member may begin special contributor status under GARS)

You cannot use correlated service credit other than as governor or lt. governor to qualify for special contributor status. You must establish and maintain your initial eight years of service credit (purchased and earned) in GARS.

If you elect to become a special contributing member, you must pay the employee contributions based on the earnable compensation level in effect during the years in which you participate in the program. Special contributor contributions begin at the time of termination from covered employment. If you are a special contributing member, you will receive an invoice each year from our Service Department for contributions due. If you fail to make the yearly contribution payment by the June 30 deadline each year, you are considered to have made an irrevocable election to become a noncontributing member.

Since special contributors are not active General Assembly members, the only service credit that you may purchase as a special contributing member is the yearly special contributor service credit. If you are also a member of SCRS, PORS, or JSRS, you may purchase service in whichever of these systems you are an active member. If you transfer service out of your GARS account, the total number of years of service originally available for purchase as a special contributing member will not change.

If a special contributing member withdraws or transfers the initial eight years of GARS service credit that qualified him to become a special contributing GARS member, he cannot receive a GARS monthly benefit or continue to participate as a special contributor. Correlated service credit is not included in determining the total years of service a member may purchase as a special contributing member or determining eligibility to become a special contributing member.

Special contributing members are not covered by the active member incidental death benefit, nor do your beneficiaries have the option of applying for a survivor monthly benefit at your death unless you die at age 60 or after with at least eight years of service but before applying for a deferred monthly benefit.