March 2011 Issue
February 17, 2011

TRS time and tiers: What can you buy back?

Source: NYSUT United
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Q: I am ready to retire at the end of this school year and it has crossed my mind that I might be able to get prior service, change my tier or buy back time because I worked for a couple of summers for the town clerk's office. This was a few years before I began teaching. Any advice?

A: You might wish to pursue prior service by calling the New York State Teachers' Retirement System at 800-348-7298, ext. 6250, or downloading a Prior Service Claim form at Prior service is New York state public service completed before your current date of membership in TRS.

Keep in mind you will NOT be able to change tiers. Prior service credit does not involve tier movement, only additional service credit toward retirement. Once the TRS verifies your prior service, you will be able to purchase that service.

Q: I worked as a Hunter Training Safety Instructor for the state of New York for more than six years. I did this while I was in college and after. I was trained by the state to hold classes and issue certificates to people who passed the 8- and 10-hour courses. This was on a volunteer basis on my part. Can any or all of this time be used toward retirement?

A: If you were on a state payroll, you could claim such service for prior service credit. However, if by the word "volunteer" you are indicating that you did not receive any salary, then it is not creditable.

Q: I just received December's NYSUT United and I also have a question on coaching and how it pertains to service credit. I was under the assumption that since I worked full-time in both my years of coaching that I could not receive more than one year of service credit in one school year. Is this true or am I eligible for additional service credit due to my coaching time?

A: Your original assumption is correct: If you are a full-time teacher and coach, there is no additional service credit. If the coaching is done within your three-year Final Average Salary years, then the additional monies will be included for the retirement calculation.

Q: During the 1970s I was employed by a private special education school. Our students were sent to us by local school districts, and they paid tuition for us to teach them. There was no retirement plan attached to this school. Is there any way that this time served can be used toward total teaching time toward retirement? I thought there was something a few years ago where if there was no retirement plan and the school served public school students (paid by public school districts) there was a way to "buy time."

A: To our knowledge there has been no enabling legislation allowing public sector retirement credit for any non-public rendered service (reimbursements by public schools notwithstanding).

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