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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do I have to enroll in CERF?

Yes, participation is mandatory for full-time, eligible employees.

If I leave the county before I am vested, and receive a refund of my contributions, and later return to work in the county, can I include my previous service?

You have 60 days from your rehire date to contact CERF about purchasing your prior service, otherwise that service will no longer be eligible for purchase.

Can I still work after I retire from the county?

Yes, but you must have at least a 30-day break in service and you must work less than 1,000 hours in a calendar year.

Am I eligible for the $10,000 death benefit if I leave the county?

No, only active employees who receive pay in the month in which they die are eligible for the $10,000 death benefit.

When can I retire and draw a pension?

You earn a right to a pension once you are vested in the CERF plan, which is after you have earned eight years of vesting service. Your benefit is payable at age 62, which is normal retirement age.

Can I retire early?

If you left the county prior to 1/1/00, you must wait until you’re 62 to receive benefits. If you left 1/1/00 or later, you can retire as early as age 55 as long as you have eight (8) years of continuous service with at least 1,000 hours each year. If you choose to commence benefits prior to age 62, your benefits will be actuarially-reduced.

Why does a member who is in LAGERS receive only 2/3 of the normal benefit?

LAGERS employees are covered in the LAGERS pension plan, so LAGERS participants are already provided a pension benefit. When combined with CERF, LAGERS members receive a reasonable pension benefit. Additionally, LAGERS employees pay a lower contribution percentage.

How will my pension benefit be paid?

Pension payments are issued on the first day of each month and are directly deposited into your checking or savings account.

What is a buyback and how does it affect my benefit?

The CERF retirement system was created on August 28, 1994. Employees who had service prior to this date are allowed to include their prior service when calculating benefits. In order to count this service, however, a participant must make a purchase of those years of service. The buyback of service can be made either in a lump sum, or deducted from your pension benefit for up to 48 months. Special Consultants are required to pay 50% of the buyback prior to commencing benefits but can spread the remaining 50% of the buyback for up to 48 months.

Which formula is used to calculate my benefit?

Your benefit is first determined using the Targeted Replacement Ratio formula. Because CERF wants to be sure all employees have a certain minimum pension amount, CERF calculates a second amount using the Flat-Dollar formula. The formula producing the greater amount will be used for your pension benefit. Also, if you had service before January 1, 2000, the benefit that you had earned under the prior plan through December 31, 1999, will be calculated as well. If your benefit from the prior plan’s formula through December 31, 1999, is greater than the benefit produced by the Flat-Dollar or Targeted Replacement Ratio formulas, that is the amount you will receive.

Why does CERF only use primary Social Security earnings based on a projection of county-related income to determine benefits?

CERF uses your actual county earnings as a CERF participant. CERF estimates any earnings for service before any date that records of county earnings are available. This date is generally August 28, 1994. When determining your benefits, CERF uses primary Social Security earnings (meaning that CERF does not count the additional Social Security benefits you accrue if you’re married). Also, CERF uses only county earnings. Income you earn from other sources is not figured into the formula. These measures prevent you from being penalized for being married or earning outside income.

What are the rules about prior service credit for rehires or retirees?

Under the terms of the pension plan in effect before January 1, 2000, prior service (eligible service before August 28, 1994) was not included in your creditable service unless you purchased it. If you were a county employee on June 10, 1999, and worked through January 1, 2000, the prior service is included in your benefit calculation automatically, at no cost to you. If you returned to county employment after June 10, 1999, with prior service, you will need to purchase this service in order for it to count toward your benefit.