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Retirements: West Virginia’s public employees not ready to leave

West Virginia’s public employees just aren’t retiring like they used to.

According to Consolidated Public Retirement Board executive director Jeffrey Fleck, significantly fewer public employees — including teachers — are choosing to retire this year. In a normal year, an average of 1,000 employees files for retirement during the last three months of the year. So far this year, 400 employees have placed notices with the Public Employees Retirement System.

There are a couple of reasons for that, of course. One may be the back-to-back 5 percent raises received in 2018 and 2019. After all, public employees’ pensions are based on the highest three years’ pay of their final work years.

But then again, Fleck said teacher retirements were lower than usual at the end of last school year, too.

Another may be that public employees simply no longer feel financial comfortable enough to retire at the age their predecessors did. Our state’s economy still does not reflect the hyperbolic economic success being touted as taking place in other parts of the country.

Whatever the reason, the slow down in retirements presents a couple of problems. First, public employees who are hanging on for a higher calculated pension rate will obviously mean more money to paid out to those folks when they do decide to retire. Surely lawmakers will be aware of that as they almost certainly face another tightening of the belt in the upcoming legislative session.

Second, in a state where we desperately need young people to believe there is a job for them here, there is reason to stay … fewer jobs are opening up because of retirement. That is one more reason for lawmakers to work with employers to ensure our economy diversifies — that the same old jobs that have always existed (and, let’s face it, a lot of those are public positions, in the Mountain State) are not the only options for a young person hoping to build a life in his or her home state.

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