Second vote tackles OPERS demands

Amherst law director Tony Pecora (File)

The threat of a lawsuit and a push from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System led Amherst council to vote again Monday on withholding practices.

At least one city worker has threatened legal action in the face of a possible double taxation snafu that could impact about 50 Amherst employees, law director Tony Pecora said.

The heart of the issue: Since 2004, the city has calculated pension contributions using after-tax figures instead of pre-tax figures.

Council moved in May to change that process at the urging of OPERS and the IRS.

But the state agency was not satisfied with that vote because the adopted legislation was not quite specific enough about the date the change-over would be made, according to Pecora.

He said OPERS demanded a set July 19 date be included and that local officials ratify the change a second time.

After passage Monday on emergency status, the switch will commence with the start of the pay period.

A letter from OPERS and obtained through a public records request also clarified that pick-up plans must cover non-union workers. They may not opt out of participation.

Pecora said all affected workers will be notified this week in writing of the change.

In the meantime, OPERS is looking for workers to amend their income tax filings for the past three years to reflect the withholdings change.

“It’s going to cause us to reissue W-2s for the employees that were effected for those years,” said Pecora, adding that officials are considering ways to “fairly” help workers cover costs involved in re-filing.

He does not believe any city workers will have to pay more in taxes, but some will get additional tax dollars back due to the change.

Auditor David Kukucka said in May that workers’ take-home pay will also rise by a very small amount because of the withholdings change.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.