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Polk County Commissioners started what will end up being a longer upcoming discussion on whether they should change retirement rules for county employees, and what those rules should be.

The hopes of board members and the county administration is by making a big change to when an employee is eligible for retirement, they’ll be able to save money overall on expenses from salaries and benefits in the short and long run.

County manager Matt Denton provided a brief overlook at the figures and came up with the outlines of a plan that could save more than $100,000 annually and still allow for replacements for those who decide to enjoy their retirements in the coming years before they’d anticipated.

Enough so it might be work making the change. Currently, employees with the county must have reached the age of 60 and worked at least 20 years to be eligible to retire and receive benefits from the county’s pension plan, and several still on the job could benefit from the rules currently.

However, if the county were to go with Denton’s idea of an 80-rule, that would increase the number of employees eligible for retirement overall and give them the option of cashing out earlier than they anticipated.

“We would save money immediately because the salaries of those who would be replacing a retiree would be much less than those who were in the job before,” Denton said. “And we also wouldn’t likely spend as much on our group health insurance coverage as well.”

Commissioner Scotty Tilley went on to explain the policy — which would be much like what is in place at his brother Rocky’s Polk County Public Service — as one that has great benefits for both employer and employee. He said that so long as an employee has service that combines to make up at least a figure of 80, the employee can retire.

For instance, if an employee is 55 and has served for 30 years in a job with the county, they would be eligible for retirement because their age and years of service are greater than 80.

And because those employees wouldn’t be making their full salary once retired, and those replacing them would get paid the base rate for those starting out as new hires in a position, the county spends less money on paying workers than they did before.

Commission chair Marshelle Thaxton added in the discussion he wanted the county to go back and examine how much contributions they make versus an employee to their retirement savings, providing a better deal for employees if the county can find additional funds to contribute to retirement. When asked, Denton reported the county continues to make their required contributions annually to retirement funds, and those who are set to receive benefits or do currently have no worries about the health of the county’s retirement fund overall.