County Secretary Benefit Programs
***Note: In order to have computer network access, county support staff must have a courtesy appointment with the University of Missouri.
Program Changes (subsidy)- Calendar 2017
For many years, MU Extension supplemented health benefits for county office support staff employed by county councils, when staff were enrolled the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHCP). This plan provides coverage for many employees and retirees in state agencies.
In 2010, MCHCP indicated it would no longer accept new enrollees from MU Extension. In recent years, MCHCP has limited MU Extension’s ability to actively manage payments. As these changes occurred, extension provided flat subsidies to assist with coverage that counties provided. Over time, participation has dropped to only 37 counties.
As the Affordable Care Act outlined health care as the responsibility of individuals or their employer, it has become increasingly difficult for MU Extension to continue supplementing health care benefits for staff who are not direct employees. MU Extension has been advised to end the practice of providing counties a supplement for health insurance.
What is changing?
MU Extension will phase out allotments to county offices for secretary health coverage. MU Extension will redistribute these funds in an equitable manner to benefit all counties. Distributing the allocation more equitably among all the counties means most counties will receive more funds to provide support for programming.
The result is that counties will have greater flexibility to use this funding source in support of extension county office programming. Each council will be able to determine how the funds will be used in support. Some options include employer-sponsored medical insurance and retirement contributions for secretaries. Councils should keep in mind that the original budget allocation note from the state appropriation was intended for basic benefit coverage for council-paid staff.
The transition for this change will occur over two fiscal years.
Funds available for this program will be allocated each year using the following formula
- All counties with open extension offices will receive a flat subsidy
- Each county will also receive an amount based on the number of specialists housed in the county
Funds and the formula will be reviewed annually. Of the available funds, approximately one-third will be distributed to open county offices, and approximately two-thirds will be based on the number of specialists housed in that county.
For the first year of transition, each county will receive the greater of:
- The allocation based on the formula described above, or
- The amount received in FY 2016.
For the second year of the transition, each county will receive the greater of:
- The normal allocation as previously described, or
- The normal allocation plus 50 percent of the difference between the amount received in 2016 and the normal allocation
If the normal allocation was $1,500 per year and the amount received in 2016 was $2,000, the county will receive $2,000 in FY 2017, $1,750 in FY 2018, and $1,500 in FY 2019.
Effective Jan. 1, 2017, MU Extension will no longer be the administrator for the secretary retirement plan with Nationwide Retirement Solutions and will not have any connection to any secretary health insurance plans.
Individual counties can elect to work with banks or other entities to set up a retirement fund. Counties can determine the amount that may be invested in the retirement account on behalf of the employee each pay period, and determine the rules (flat amount, percent, match or not, etc.).
We are discussing options with Nationwide, as well as gathering additional information regarding other retirement plan options to be distributed in the near future.
Questions and Answers
MU Extension Allotment to County Offices for FY 2017
Ten Tips When Considering a Retirement Plan
IRS Publication 4484, Choose a Retirement Plan -- Tax exempt and Government Entities
Retirement Plan Feature Comparison Chart (from IRS Publication 4484) and additional IRS Information Resources
Health care and retirement benefits are available to to benefit eligible county secretaries. Benefit eligible county office secretaries are regularly scheduled to work at least ¾ time (.75 or greater FTE, which is 30 or more hours per week). Not all county extension councils participate in the health or retirement benefits.
Extension will continue to provide a tax-free subsidy to County Extension Councils toward the employer's share of employer-sponsored health insurance for the secretary's health insurance coverage not to be used toward spouse or dependent's premium, dental or vision insurance premiums). New for Calendar Year 2016 year, and at this time only for this year, the subsidy (or at least part of the subsidy) may be used as an additional retirement contribution by the Council toward the secretary's retirement program with Nationwide Retirement Solutions, as noted below.
The Calendar Year 2016 Extension Secretary Subsidy may be used toward:
- the employer's share of employer-sponsored health insurance only, or
- employer sponsored health insurance and toward an additional council contribution to the secretary retirement program, or
- as an additional Council contribution to the secretary retirement program only.
The subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance or employer-sponsored health insurance plus additional retirement contribution may be up to $400 a month. The subsidy for an additional employer contribution toward secretary retirement may be up to $150 a month.
The subsidy may not be used toward employer reimbursement arrangements (i.e., private (individual) health care premiums or out-of-pocket health expenses nor may it be used for any other retirement contribution outside of the program with Nationwide Retirement Solutions.
To receive the funds the Extension Subsidy Verification 2016 form must be submitted.
Two Adobe Connect meetings were held regarding Calendar 2016 secretary benefits:
July 9th meeting (recorded) | slide show (PPT)
July 14th meeting (recorded) | slide show (PPT)
For administration questions contact the county secretary benefits plan administrator, Tamra Robbins, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 573-882-7755 (phone) or 573-882-2595 (fax).
Calendar Year 2016
To assist in the expenditure and to encourage county extension councils (councils) in offering health benefits, the University of Missouri Extension will provide an extension health subsidy (subsidy) to participating councils.
University of Missouri Extension will no longer be providing oversight to employer-sponsored health insurance. It is the employer's (Council's) responsibility to insure the health insurance meets employer-sponsored requirements to remain tax free and conforms to all laws/regulations (reference IRS regulations, Affordable Health Care Act, etc.).
Calendar Year 2016
The retirement plan has been designed to be a portion of an individual’s long-term financial plan and encourages secretaries to plan extended careers with extension.
County extension secretaries are covered under the University of Missouri Workers' Compensation program.
Extension health plan and retirement detailed policies.
Information on enrolling in the benefits programs.