The Public Employee Retirement System board on Wednesday approved contribution increases that will take another 1 percent out of the take-home pay of most government workers in Nevada.The overall statutory rate for retirement contributions will increase with the July 1 start of the upcoming two-year budget cycle from 24.5 percent to 26.5 percent for workers on the employer/ employee program. For those workers in state and local government as well as school districts, half of the 2 percent increase is paid by the employer and half by the employee.The increase will hit police-fire employees statewide as well but, under the rates approved by the board, their increase will be half of what everyone else faces. Their total contribution rate, which is already significantly higher than non-police-fire employees, will rise from 40.5 percent to 41.54 percent.PERS Director Dana Bilyeu said the increase is necessary despite the fact PERS has done well this past year, increasing the market value of its investment assets by $400 million for the regular worker program and $200 million for the police-fire trust to a total of $25.9 billion.Bilyeu said the increase in revenue generated by the change is just $20.2 million a year, out of more than $1.58 billion in total contributions. She said the government entities won’t be hit hard at all since much of what they have to pay is offset by the fact that they are paying it on behalf of fewer public employees than in the past. That’s due to budgetary layoffs that have sharply reduced the total number of people employed by governments statewide.Because of those staff cutbacks, she said the total payroll for Nevada governments has fallen from $5.91 billion in fiscal 2010 to $5.57 billion in fiscal 2012 — a difference of about $337 million.The 1 percent cut in take-home pay for most government workers and the reduction of a fraction over a half-percent for those covered by the police-fire plan follow the total 4.8 percent pay cut to state workers imposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and the 2011 Legislature to balance the budget.Also, there were cuts for some workers as a result of suspension of merit pay, longevity and step increases. Restoring everything on that list would cost about $200 million. On top of that, there are the increased amounts state workers must pay for their health insurance benefits.At this point, Sandoval has backed away from his earlier statements that he intended to restore as much of those cuts as possible. He now says he doesn’t know what the state can afford to put back for its workers. He and his staff say that, following the state Economic Forum projections due November 30, they intend to see what they can do for employees.PERS covers retirement benefits for some 100,000 active government workers in 180 different governmental entities in Nevada along with nearly 45,000 retirees.
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