Lexington, KY | Count on LEX 18

No Good Options for Domestic Violence Shelters in Pension Debate

FRANKFORT, KY (Lex 18) – As Kentucky lawmakers wait for Governor Bevin to call another special session, a number of so-called “quasi-state” agencies are on the brink of major financial issues.

The Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence is one of those organizations caught in a holding pattern. The Coalition’s executive director, Sherry Currens, said several solutions by lawmakers could affect important services.

“We’re in a situation where we need lots of staff, and if we cut staff we put people in danger,” Currens said.

According to Currens, 9 of her 15 domestic violence programs across Kentucky are part of the state pension system. But, with rapidly rising contribution rates, none of those programs can afford to stay in much longer.

Currently, the organization sets aside roughly 50 percent of each employee’s salary for the retirement plan. The contribution rate is scheduled to jump to 84 percent in July, which state officials say is necessary to keep the massively underfunded pension system solvent.

“We may be able to handle it for a year, but after that, it’s going to get really tricky,” said Currens. “It means we’re going to have to start cutting employees, if not closing shelters.”

House Bill 358 was supposed to be the solution to that problem. Passed last month, the bill would have allowed non-state agencies such as KCADV to leave the pension system in exchange for paying off their debt over time.

The problem, Currens said, is her organization can’t afford either option. It can only sustain the contribution rate increases for so long, and can’t afford to leave the system and pay off the debt.

“Including selling our building, we wouldn’t have enough money of contribution payments if we’re out of the system,” said Currens.

Now, a veto from the Governor is creating both hope and uncertainty.

“It gives us a lot of anxiety whether we’re going to be in operation in the next six months, depending on whatever the solution is,” said Ann Perkins, with Safe Harbor, one of the programs within the coalition.

Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence programs helps countless domestic violence victims every day.
According to Currens, the organization serves about 6,000 residential and 25,000 non-residential victims and children every year.

“Without our assistance and without our help, you would have literally thousands of women and children on the streets, basically homeless, no place to go,” said Perkins.

The coalition hopes lawmakers are able to find a solution in the special session. Currens said lengthening the time to pay off pension debt and finding new revenue to contribute to the system would help organizations such as hers.

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