SAFE HARBOR retirement plan
Previous plan communications
The County of Ventura Safe Harbor Retirement Plan (Plan), part of the Supplemental Retirement Plan (SRP), is a Social Security Alternative plan that was implemented on January 1, 1992. The Plan was created in compliance with the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990 (OBRA ’90) to provide eligible employees with an additional source of income upon retirement.
You are required to participate in the Plan if you are designated as an extra-help, intermittent, or part-time employee, you are not eligible to participate in the Ventura County Employee’s Retirement Association (VCERA), and you are not paying Social Security taxes. Reserve firefighters and those persons who are already receiving a pension benefit from the County of Ventura are excluded from participation in this Plan.
Currently, there are two different plan types – a defined benefit (DB) plan type and a deferred compensation (DC) plan type.
- If you were hired as a part-time, extra-help or intermittent employee prior to April 18, 2021, then you are in the DB plan. If you were hired as a part-time, extra-help or intermittent employee on or after April 18, 2021, then you are in the DC plan.
- If you were currently active in the Safe Harbor plan at the time that the DC plan type was introduced (April 2021), you were given the option to join the new plan or stay in the DB plan.
Safe Harbor Supplemental Retirement Plan - Defined Benefit (DB) Plan Type
If you were employed on or before April 17, 2021 you are participating in a defined benefit (DB) plan. While eligible for the Plan, you were required to contribute 3% of your pay beginning with your first pay period of eligible employment. The County also contributes to the plan. The employer contribution is actuarially determined and fluctuates annually. Employee and employer contributions are deposited to the Plan’s trust to fund future benefits. Contributions cannot be transferred to another retirement system and are not refunded to you when you terminate service with the County of Ventura. Your contributions will remain in the Plan until you are eligible for a retirement benefit described in the “Retirement Eligibility” section of the Summary Plan Description (SPD) available in the Plan Information box below.
If you worked as Extra-Help, Intermittent, or Part-Time for the County beginning in 1992 you would have been a participant in the Safe Harbor Retirement Plan.
Supplemental Retirement Plan (SRP) 457 - Deferred Compensation (DC) Plan Type
In order to provide a more accessible and portable benefit to our members, the Safe Harbor Retirement Plan benefit type was changed from a defined benefit (DB) plan to a 457 deferred compensation (DC) plan for new hires beginning April 18, 2021.
If you were participating in Safe Harbor as of April 17, 2021, and were actively contributing to the DB plan, you were given the option to change your benefit type to the SRP 457 DC plan as per a June 2021 mailing to your home address. To opt out of the conversion, the election form provided in the mailing had to be returned to the Safe Harbor office by August 16, 2021. If the opt-out form was not received by this deadline, you were converted to the SRP 457 plan.
Active members who elected to join the new SRP 457 plan had their paycheck contributions to this plan initiated as of September 5, 2021. After converting to the SRP 457 DC plan, the option to convert 80% of the current accrued defined benefit to the SRP 457 DC plan was presented to active members. A mailing was sent to the home address of active members in September 2021 that included conversion information and provided an estimated value of the future Safe Harbor benefit at age 65, and the value of the 80% benefit conversion that could be elected to receive in lieu of the future defined benefit.
By electing the conversion option, the Safe Harbor benefit was transferred to a SRP 457 DC account and will be available upon separation from County employment. Please note, if contributions to the Safe Harbor plan were more than the 80% conversion value, a refund of contributions was transferred to the SRP 457 DC account. As per the direction of the SRP committee, this conversion of active members’ previous Safe Harbor benefit was considered a passive election. If the 80% benefit conversion was the best option then no action was needed. The conversion was completed during the last quarter of 2021.
Active members did have the option to freeze their Safe Harbor benefit and collect it once separated from County employment and at least 50 years old, which qualifies for an early/reduced retirement benefit, or at age 65 to receive the maximum retirement benefit. The option to freeze the Safe Harbor benefit required the submission of the Conversion Option Election form that was received in the mail by November 10, 2021. If a Conversion Option Election form was not received by this date, then members were included in the conversion group and their benefit was converted and transferred to the SRP 457 DC plan.
Plan Oversight - Supplemental Retirement Plan (SRP) Committee
The Supplemental Retirement Plan is reviewed and monitored by the SRP Committee. The Committee is made up of the following representation:
- Treasurer/Tax Collector
- Chief Executive Officer
- Human Resources Director
- County Counsel
The Committee meets quarterly for fiduciary review and oversight.
Social Security Information
If you receive a pension benefit from the Safe Harbor Plan, your future Social Security benefits may be affected. Since the County provides retirement coverage through Safe Harbor instead of coverage under Social Security, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) may affect the benefits you receive from Social Security. Effective January 1, 2005, employees hired into positions covered by Safe Harbor, are required to sign a statement acknowledging the possible effects. Information on Social Security benefits, the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset (GPO) can be obtained directly from the Social Security Website: www.ssa.gov/gpo-wep.