Some rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters risk closure without pension payment help

12/16/2013 09:31 PM

Rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters would need a total of $10 million over the next two years in extra state money to help make sharply increasing payments for their employees retirement benefits or else some might shut down, advocates said.

Eileen Recktenwald, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, and Sharon Allen Currens, executive director of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, told Pure Politics in a joint interview that the small shelters and rape crisis centers that employee between three and 50 employees just can’t keep up with their required payments to the Kentucky Retirement System.

For instance, nine of the 15 shelter programs — one in each of Kentucky’s Area Development Districts — have joined the Kentucky Retirement system even though the shelters aren’t technically state agencies. This year, the nine must contribute about 26.8 percent of their payroll to the pension system. In the next fiscal year, that goes up to 42 percent.

“There was no way to anticipate the kind of increase we’re seeing now,” Currens said. Later in the interview, she said: “… We could potentially have to close a shelter.”

And for Curren’s umbrella organization, the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, they would owe more money to the Kentucky Retirement System next year than the money the funding they’re slated to receive from the Kentucky Health and Family Services Cabinet, she said.

The situation is largely the same for the rape crisis centers across the state, some of which operate with just a handful of employees. Here’s what Currens and Recktenwald told Pure Politics:

Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel of Taylor Mill used the Pennyrile Rape Crisis Center in western Kentucky as an example of an organization that needs the state’s help during an interview with Pure Politics last month.

Other organizations, such as the Seven Counties Mental Health Center in the Louisville area, have chosen to file bankruptcy in order to leave the pension system — and they’re obligations — behind.

Meanwhile, House Democrats will be discussing ways to help small quasi-governmental agencies with big pension bills, said Democratic Caucus Chairman Sannie Overly.

Here’s what she told Pure Politics:

Likewise, Rep. John Tilley, the Democratic House Judiciary Committee chairman from Hopkinsville, committed that House Democrats would have a “discussion” about it but stopped short of promising to come through with the money.

“I’m not as confident there will be a resolution this session, although I hold out hope,” Tilley said.

In the interview segment above, Tilley also answered questions about an effort among some lawmakers to pass a bill allowing expungement for non-violent one-time felons.

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