Monday, February 6, 2023

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Lawmakers need creative solutions to fill teaching, law enforcement vacancies and prevent jurisdictions from simply siphoning employees from one another

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We’re not sure that Alamance County’s legislative delegation in Raleigh can pull it off, but they and other members of the General Assembly need to give some creative consideration of how to address the serious shortages in manpower – within both law enforcement and the school system – not only in Alamance County but across the state.

Part of the issue, in our judgment, is the state’s retirement system, which penalizes retirees who seek to work after retirement in any capacity with the same agencies from which they retired.

For the most part, they face a dollar-for-dollar cut in their retirement pay for any salary they receive in the encore employment.

In the case of law enforcement, that’s been a prescription for officers to swap uniforms for those in another jurisdiction, or for some sort of “contracted” employment that doesn’t count against their state retirement income.

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Now, we hesitate to add that the current problem also stems from an overly-generous state retirement system in the first place, that allows government workers – whether in law enforcement or education – to draw fairly lavish retirement pay after 30 years of employment. Meanwhile, most private sector employees are putting in more than 40 years, and in most cases, don’t get any guaranteed retirement pay – other than what they’ve saved up or, in some cases, has been matched (to some degree) by their employers.

But as a practical matter, there simply are not enough experienced personnel to fill all the needs in either law enforcement or teaching across the state.

Jurisdictions are resorting to “incentives” – which are little more than thinly-veiled “bribes” – in order to entice eligible teachers and police away from their current city or county.

But the recurring problem is that one jurisdiction’s gain leaves another in an even deeper hole.

At a minimum, it seems to us legislators need to step in to revise these “incentives” to prohibit the kinds of pay and benefits that merely serve to attract existing personnel from their current jurisdiction.

But it also seems to us the legislators should consider some sort of formula and revised rules surrounding state retirement pay so that, at least initially after their “retirement,” the most experienced law enforcement and education retirees can stay with their agency, or work for another one, without the full salary offset that now applies.

We don’t think such a waiver necessarily needs to be permanent nor even very long-lasting.
But for the immediate future, cities and counties are desperate to fill their ranks.

If the state doesn’t provide a way to fill them with fully competent and qualified people, the alternative is likely to lower the caliber of law enforcement and education personnel who are hired out of desperation to fill these vacancies.

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