The Utah State Legislature’s associate general counsel is drafting a bill that would allow the facility to opt out of the state’s public employee retirement system.
Although the bill had not been filed as of press time, three state lawmakers have already thrown their support behind the proposal, according to Canyonlands Care Center Administrator Roy Barraclough.
State Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, will team up with Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price, and Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, to guide the bill through the 2014 legislative session.
Barraclough recently met with the lawmakers, and he said there was a “pretty strong” consensus among them that they just need to fix the Utah Retirement Systems (URS) law.
“I left the meeting (on Jan. 15) quite positive, quite optimistic, that this is going to happen,” he told the Canyonlands Health Care Special Service District (CHCSSD) Board on Jan. 16.
Under the current law, the quasi-governmental care center’s board is required to contribute to the URS program. But the facility continues to operate in the red, and interim CHCSSD Board chairman Doug Fix noted that a significant amount of its annual shortages — about 16 percent — can be traced to the URS requirements.
If the legislature amends the law, Barraclough estimates that the facility will save somewhere between $120,000 to $130,000 per year.
That compares to an estimated annual payroll of $1 million, according to Barraclough.
As things currently stand, Barraclough said that a majority of full-time employees on that payroll will never benefit from the URS contributions.
Although the facility does have some long-term employees, more than half of its staff will not stick around long enough to vest into the URS program, he said.
It takes four years to reach that point, yet Barraclough said that many of the care center’s staffers move on to positions elsewhere after one year to 18 months on the job.
“It really isn’t applicable to our facility,” he said.
Likewise, Barraclough said one key rationale behind the URS program does not apply to the care center.
Generally speaking, the program is designed to benefit public employees who typically earn less than those who work in the private sector. But Barraclough noted that the care center is competing with hospitals and other organizations that pay their employees higher wages.
“In our case, that doesn’t fit,” he said.