Midtown Raleigh News

July 16, 2014

Retirement rule brings change for Raleigh’s part-time employees

More than 200 part-time city employees could see their hours change next month in a $340,000 restructuring to comply with the state’s retirement plan rules.

More than 150 part-time city employees could see their hours change next month in a $340,000 restructuring to comply with the state’s retirement plan rules.

State law requires any employee who works more than 1,000 hours a year – roughly 20 hours a week – to be enrolled in the state’s retirement system. But Raleigh officials discovered that about 215 part-time employees, most of them in the parks department, were working beyond that limit without getting retirement benefits.

Starting in August, 27 of those jobs will become full-time, while some part-timers will see their schedules cut so they don’t qualify for retirement benefits. Others will continue to work beyond 1,000 hours and will be enrolled in the retirement program.

“For those part-time employees who choose not to apply or who are not offered one of the full-time opportunities, the parks department will work with them to adjust their work schedule below 999 hours,” budget director Joyce Munro explained in an email.

Munro said the city is following its standard recruitment process for the full-time posts this month. Current part-timers can apply, but so can anyone outside city government.

“The positions will be advertised and all part-time staff currently employed will have the opportunity to apply,” she said.

Among the jobs that will soon be full time: a budget analyst, a community education specialist in the IT department and a wide range of parks department jobs from recreation instructors to facility supervisors.

Creating the full-time positions is expected to cost the city about $290,000 a year – funds that were provided in the budget adopted last month. City officials expect to spend $50,000 more for “fewer than 50” part-timers who will continue to work more than 1,000 hours and join the retirement program.

About 15 of those are part-time employees working at the Raleigh Convention Center and Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Munro said there’s no “plan to adjust schedules or reduce hours,” although some of the workers had been concerned about losing income.

Laura Greenwood works about 30 hours a week as a stagehand at the performing arts center. She’ll soon be contributing a portion of her paycheck to the retirement system. Reached last month after the changes were first announced, Greenwood said she doesn’t mind joining the retirement plan, but “the thing I’m really worried about is if they start capping my hours.”

Greenwood said schedule flexibility is key for the close-knit group of technical staff that makes sure ballets, musicals and other events go off without a hitch. Some of her co-workers, while classified as part time, occasionally exceed 40 hours a week when the facility is busy.

“We’re pretty dedicated to this facility,” she said, adding that fewer hours would require her supervisor to bring in less-experienced help.

And while the stagehands are safe from reduced working hours, some workers in the parks department won’t be so lucky. If they don’t secure a full-time slot, they’ll see smaller paychecks starting next month.

The changes are happening now because local governments around North Carolina got a 2012 letter that explained the state’s 1,000-hour rule for retirement eligibility. That prompted Raleigh to audit its part-time employment practices.

“Using that information, (we) developed a response that would be both appropriately aligned with the requirement and also best deliver continued service and address the needs of our community,” Munro wrote.

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