Purchasing Service Credit
Active and deferred members have the right to purchase eligible service credit before retiring. Purchasing service credit can increase your retirement benefit and, in some cases, allow you to retire earlier. KCERA offers two types of service purchases: Prior County/District Service and Prior Public Service.
Prior County/District Service
You may purchase and receive retirement service credit for eligible employment that you rendered for the County of Kern or a special district. The purchased service also counts toward your five-year vesting and retirement eligibility requirements. Employment that is eligible for a prior County/District service purchase includes:
- Certain public employment before becoming a KCERA member. This includes extra-help, per-diem, temporary and part-time County/District employment, and the brief waiting period preceding a member’s KCERA entry date. It excludes work as an independent contractor or service for which you could claim a retirement benefit under another retirement system in California.
- Medical leaves of absence (LOA) without pay. This includes maternity leaves that are medically necessary.
- Redeposits. If you re-enter KCERA after terminating employment and withdrawing your contributions, you may redeposit the withdrawn funds to regain the forfeited service credit.
- Layoffs. If you are laid off from the County of Kern but return to the same job classification within one year, you may purchase service for the layoff period.
To receive an estimate for a prior County/District service purchase, complete and return a Certification of Prior Kern County/District Service. KCERA will assist you in obtaining certification of the service by searching your past employment and salary records. Once the cost of the service purchase has been determined, KCERA will contact you by phone or mail to proceed.
Prior Public Service (PPS)
You may purchase and receive retirement service credit for eligible employment that you rendered for the federal government, U.S. military and public agencies in California.* The purchased service does not count toward your five-year vesting or retirement eligibility requirements—it is added only after the requirements are met. Employment that is eligible for a prior public service purchase includes:
- Employment with the federal government, including military service. Active duty military service is purchasable and must be verified with your DD-214 form.
- Employment with the State of California; any county or city in California; or any public district situated in whole or in part in Kern County. In general, you may purchase prior public service with KCERA only if you are not eligible to receive a pension for that period of service in another agency.
To receive an estimate for a prior public service purchase, complete and return a signed Certification of Prior Public Service for each eligible employer. KCERA will assist you in obtaining certification of the service by forwarding the completed form to your former employer. Once the agency certifies your past service, KCERA will calculate the cost of the service purchase and contact you by phone or mail to proceed.
KCERA offers several payments options to members who are eligible to purchase service credit:
- Check. You can provide a personal check or cashier’s check payable to KCERA.
- Payroll deductions. You can schedule after-tax payroll deductions from your biweekly pay for up to five years, depending on the type and length of service being purchased.
- Qualified retirement account rollover. You can transfer pre-tax funds from a qualified retirement plan—401(a), 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or Traditional IRA—for all or part of the purchase cost. There are specific rules to follow for such rollovers, so contact your plan administrator for more information.
- Salary advances. You can ask your department for a salary advance on your accumulated vacation and sick leave time—but only at the end of your career. You can also request a salary advance of your accumulated vacation time once earlier in your career. If approved, the Auditor-Controller will calculate the amount of after-tax funds available for your service purchase.
If you elect to use multiple payment methods, you are responsible to pay any remaining balance to complete the service purchase. Retirement service credit will be granted in full once your purchase is complete.
(* The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) adopted in July 1997 allows eligible KCERA members to purchase prior public service. A few special districts did not adopt the PPS provision of the 1997 MOU. Employees of these districts are not eligible to purchase prior public service in KCERA. Please contact your district’s human resources or management staff to determine your eligibility.)