Money sent to teachers’ retirement system doesn’t belong to taxpayers

To the editor:

I would like to ask Rep. Andrew Koenig and Mike Anthony at what point do they think the employer’s funds cease being the property of the employer and belong to the employee?

From their position, it sounds as if taxpayers retain full ownership of much of a teacher’s or public employee’s compensation even after services are rendered and payment is made.

Most people realize that an employee’s compensation for labor is more than the net paycheck amount; superintendents and school districts know this as they budget.

The money sent to the Public School Retirement System does not belong to the taxpayer any more than $200 paid to a laborer for a repair still belongs to the customer after the service is performed and the bill paid. A chunk of a teacher’s compensation goes for a future value.

In the Missouri system, funds are vested to the members. Over 30 years these funds are accrued along with investment earnings for that period just as an annuity or other investment account.

The earnings target of 8 percent annually has been met or exceeded for all years except 2008 and 2009. If a teacher started with a modest total compensation of $22,000 in 1980, which had increased to $52,000 in 2010, a 20-percent contribution would accrue to more than $600,000.

Though Mr. Anthony states these funds are compensation, he believes they still belong to the taxpayer. A retirement benefit of $40,000 annually would never deplete or even reduce the employee’s funds. No funds paid to a retired teacher have ever come from the current teachers’ retirement collections. It stands to reason that the present 28 percent rate is so high to offset the current teachers’ lost earning from the “private sector” investment failures and that the contribution rate will stabilize when the earnings get back on track.

Well-meaning legislators have no more right to funds saved by teachers than I would to Mr. Anthony’s savings account or to August Busch’s millions just because I read the Call or drank a Bud Light.

Wayne Muehlenbeck

Oakville

Editor’s note: Mr. Muehlenbeck is a retired assistant superintendent for the Windsor School District.