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Wednesday, September 05, 2007
September 1 brought a new surprise from PERS - a completely unexpected, unexplained, and peculiar increase in net benefits for many retirees. So far, the only explanation PERS has offered is that during the year from January through August, they were overwithholding State Income tax for retirees. Somehow they found this mistake and in the September 1 check nearly everyone's net amount increase by one of four amounts (rounded here for convenience) - $11, $22, $14, or $28 (about 200 tracking points now). I have had only one example each of the first two numbers and only have a theory about why they exist. Since I have too few data points to confirm, I'll wait to see IF PERS offers up any other explanation for these odd amounts. The other two amounts - $14 and $28 - consistently and without fail have gone to either people claiming SINGLE ($14) or MARRIED ($28). No other variable (such as number of exemptions or deductions claimed on the Federal W-4) seems to matter. Now it happens that Oregon's per exemption rate for 2007 is $165 annually. Broken up into monthly chunks it turns out that $14 (rounded down) is the per exemption per month rate (Single = 1 Automatic Exemption; Married = 2 Automatic Exemptions). That would explain the $14 and $28 increases. However, currently unexplained are the first two numbers I've seen. If you have any other amount besides this one, please let me know. I'm dying to find out what is really going on here. To determine what your increase is take your August 1, 2007 take home and subtract it from your September 1, 2007 take home benefit. That's your net increase in benefits.
To dispel an opt-repeated canard, this is NOT a benefit increase associated with the COLA or any other piece of litigation. This is simply a computer programming error that PERS just discovered. There are plenty of conspiracy theories floating around about the timing of all this, but I'd just prefer to wait to see what PERS does to explain these changes more fully.
Note added 9/5: There are NO retirees reporting an $11 increase. That retiree recalculated take home and discovered a math error. That one is also single and $14. That leaves but one example that is an outlier - the $22 report. I suspect that, too, is an error. In all likelihood, that change is actually $28 and the person is married.