County: Retirement funds recovering

ALBANY -- With many retirement and pension plans obliterated by the shrinking economy, officials who manage retirement plans of county employees say they have managed to recover most of the money lost in the recession.

Col. Doug McGinley, the administrator of the Dougherty County Jail and the chairman of the County's Retirement Plan Committee, told county commissioners this week that the fund is nearly back to where it started its roller coaster ride nearly three years ago.

At that point, the fund had a healthy balance of $34 million. But after the collapse of Wall Street investment banks and the onset of a fierce global recession, the bottom fell out from under the fund, dropping to a low of $21 million.

But through what McGinley said was a dedicated conservative approach -- and a $2.5 million infusion of cash by the county commission -- the fund is back up to $33 million.

"Some funds actually reached a return of 31 percent, which is remarkable," McGinley said. "We are just sticking with the conservative approach and I believe we will continue to be conservative. We think the plan is in good shape."

Currently, the plan covers 600 employees with 120 drawing benefits.

The county will have to approve a regulatory change to the plan to keep it in line with the law which likely will have no effect on any of those covered, McGinley said.

The change, which is required by the U.S. Treasury department, deals with the treasury department's changes to the income tax code and affects only those who will earn $195,000 or more per year when they retire.

"We did some research and there currently is no one that would fall into that category," McGinley said. "Mr. (Richard) Crowdis, (the county administrator) who is the county's highest paid employee, wouldn't even qualify unless he retired with 108 years in the system."