EDITORIAL: Deputies retirement plan change makes sense

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The Perry County Council will meet Wednesday evening to discuss changes to the retirement fund currently offered to deputies employed by the county sheriff’s department. As The News has reported, Sheriff Lee Chestnut wants the county to fund a transition from the current program under the Indiana Public Employees Retirement Fund to another geared toward police officers and firefighters.

The retirement plan Chestnut wants to form would allow officers to lock in a set benefit after 20 years of service. They would continue to build their post-retirement benefit by working longer.

That’s the same plan just about every other sheriff’s department and city police department in the state offers.

The new plan would allow officers employed elsewhere, and who already take part in the same plan through their current employers, to transfer to the sheriff’s department. We think this could be a benefit to the department in hiring officers who want to make a lateral move.

We’ve known many good deputies who’ve served our sheriff’s department. Many eventually took other jobs. Some of the transfers were due to higher pay but we know retirement was a major issue. As Chestnut has told the council, there have been very few, if any, actual retirements by deputies.

The transition won’t come free and could be as much as $35,000 the first year. That investment is nothing to sneeze at, especially in these tough times. But we think the council should give serious consideration to Chestnut’s request.

The county jail, of course, is expensive to operate but it does generate money each year that is transferred into he general fund.

Not everyone has access to defined retirement plans and we are conscious of the cost. However, we shouldn’t forget that sheriff’s deputies put their lives on the line every day. Police shootings in Indianapolis, Florida and other states over the past few weeks should remind us of the danger deputies face. Just because we live in a rural area doesn’t mean the risk isn’t here.

We encourage the council to take seriously Chestnut’s request and to set aside some of the money generated by the jail through housing state inmates in a retirement plan for deputies.

If the money can’t be found now, then the council should commit to finding the money in next year’s budget.

Providing a retirement fund for deputies, we believe, will allow the department to retain good officers and allow those from other departments to transfer to the sheriff’s department.

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