TITLE 45
Towns and Cities

CHAPTER 45-21
Retirement of Municipal Employees

SECTION 45-21-2


§ 45-21-2. Definitions.

The following words and phrases as used in this chapter have the following meanings unless a different meaning is plainly required by the context:

(1) "Accumulated contributions" means the sum of all amounts deducted from the compensation of a member and credited to his or her individual account in the members' contribution reserve account.

(2) "Active member" means any employee of a participating municipality as defined in this section for whom the retirement system is currently receiving regular contributions pursuant to §§ 45-21-41, 45-21-41.1 or 45-21.2-14.

(3) "Actuarial reserve" means the present value of all payments to be made on account of any annuity, retirement allowance, or benefit, computed upon the basis of mortality tables adopted by the retirement board with regular interest.

(4) "Beneficiary" means any person in receipt of a retirement allowance, annuity, or other benefit as provided by this chapter.

(5) For purposes of this chapter, "domestic partner" shall be defined as a person who, prior to the decedent's death, was in an exclusive, intimate and committed relationship with the decedent, and who certifies by affidavit that their relationship met the following qualifications:

(i) Both partners were at least eighteen (18) years of age and were mentally competent to contract;

(ii) Neither partner was married to anyone else;

(iii) Partners were not related by blood to a degree which would prohibit marriage in the state of Rhode Island;

(iv) Partners resided together and had resided together for at least one year at the time of death; and

(v) Partners were financially interdependent as evidenced by at least two (2) of the following:

(A) Domestic partnership agreement or relationship contract;

(B) Joint mortgage or joint ownership of primary residence;

(C) Two (2) of: (I) Joint ownership of motor vehicle; (II) Joint checking account; (III) Joint credit account; (IV) Joint lease; and/or

(D) The domestic partner had been designated as a beneficiary for the decedent's will, retirement contract or life insurance.

(6) "Effective date of participation" means the date on which the provisions of this chapter have become applicable to a municipality accepting the provisions of the chapter in the manner stated in § 45-21-4.

(7) "Employee" means any regular and permanent employee or officer of any municipality, whose business time at a minimum of twenty (20) hours a week is devoted to the service of the municipality, including elective officials and officials and employees of city and town housing authorities. Notwithstanding the previous sentence, the term "employee", for the purposes of this chapter, does not include any person whose duties are of a casual or seasonal nature. The retirement board shall decide who are employees within the meaning of this chapter, but in no case shall it deem as an employee any individual who annually devotes less than twenty (20) business hours per week to the service of the municipality and who receives less than the equivalent of minimum wage compensation on an hourly basis for his or her services, except as provided in § 45-21-14.1. Casual employees mean those persons hired for an occasional period or a period of emergency to perform special jobs or functions not necessarily related to the work of regular employees. Any commissioner of a municipal housing authority, or any member of a part-time state board commission, committee or other authority is not deemed to be an employee within the meaning of this chapter.

(8)(a) "Final compensation" for members who are eligible to retire on or prior to June 30, 2012, means the average annual compensation, pay, or salary of a member for services rendered during the period of three (3) consecutive years within the total service of the member when the average was highest, and as the term average annual compensation is further defined in subdivision 36-8-1(5)(a). For members eligible to retire on or after July 1, 2012, "final compensation" means the average of the highest five (5) consecutive years of compensation within the total service when the final compensation was the highest.

(b) For members who become eligible to retire on or after July 1, 2012, if more than one half (1/2) of the member's total years of service consist of years of service during which the member devoted less than thirty (30) business hours per week to the service of the municipality, but the member's average compensation consists of three (3) or more years during which the member devoted more than thirty (30) business hours per week to the service of a municipality, such member's average compensation shall mean the average of the highest ten (10) consecutive years of compensation within the total service when the average compensation was the highest; provided however, effective July 1, 2015, if such member's average compensation as defined in subsection (a) above is equal to or less than thirty-five thousand dollars ($35,000), such amount to be indexed annually in accordance with § 45-21-52(d)(1)(B), such member's average compensation shall mean the greater of: (i) The average of the highest ten (10) consecutive years of compensation within the total service when the average compensation was the highest; or (ii) The member's average compensation as defined in subsection (a) above. To protect a member's accrued benefit on June 30, 2012, under this § 45-21-2(8)(b), in no event shall a member's average compensation be lower than his or her average compensation determined as of June 30, 2012.

Notwithstanding the preceding provisions, in no event shall a member's final compensation be lower than his or her final compensation determined as of June 30, 2012.

(9) "Fiscal year" means the period beginning on July 1 in any year and ending on June 30 of the next succeeding year.

(10) "Full actuarial costs" or "full actuarial value" mean the lump sum payable by a member claiming service credit for certain employment for which payment is required, which is determined according to the age of the member and his or her annual rate of compensation at the time he or she applies for service credit, and which is expressed as a rate percent of the annual rate of compensation to be multiplied by the number of years for which he or she claims the service credit, as prescribed in a schedule adopted by the retirement board, from time to time, on the basis of computation by the actuary. Except as provided in §§ 16-16-7.1, 36-5-3, 36-9-31, 36-10-10.4, and subdivision 45-21-53: (i) All service credit purchases requested after June 16, 2009, and prior to July 1, 2012, shall be at full actuarial value; and (ii) All service credit purchases requested after June 30, 2012, shall be at full actuarial value which shall be determined using the system's assumed investment rate of return minus one percent (1%).

(11) "Governing body" means any and all bodies empowered to appropriate monies for, and administer the operation of, the units as defined in subdivision (1) of this section.

(12) "Member" means any person included in the membership of the retirement system as provided in § 45-21-8.

(13) "Municipality" means any town or city in the state of Rhode Island, any city or town housing authority, fire, water, sewer district, regional school district, public building authority as established by chapter 14 of title 37, or any other municipal financed agency to which the retirement board has approved admission in the retirement system.

(14) "Participating municipality" means any municipality which has accepted this chapter, as provided in § 45-21-4.

(15) "Prior service" means service as a member rendered before the effective date of participation as defined in this section, certified on his or her prior service certificate, and allowable as provided in § 45-21-15.

(16) "Regular interest" means interest at the assumed investment rate of return, compounded annually, as may be prescribed from time to time by the retirement board.

(17) "Retirement allowance" or "annuity" means the amounts paid to any member of the municipal employees' retirement system of the state of Rhode Island, or a survivor of the member, as provided in this chapter. All retirement allowances or annuities shall be paid in equal monthly installments for life, unless otherwise specifically provided.

(18) "Retirement board" or "board" means the state retirement board created by chapter 8 of title 36.

(19) "Retirement system" means the "municipal employees' retirement system of the state of Rhode Island" as defined in § 45-21-32.

(20) "Service" means service as an employee of a municipality of the state of Rhode Island as defined in subdivision (7).

(21) "Total service" means prior service as defined in subdivision (15) plus service rendered as a member on or after the effective date of participation.

(22) Any term not specifically defined in this chapter and specifically defined in chapters 36-8 through 36-10 shall have the same definition as set forth in chapters 36-8 through 36-10.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1951, ch. 2784, § 2; G.L. 1956, § 45-21-2; R.P.L. 1957, ch. 135, § 1; P.L. 1966, ch. 283, § 1; P.L. 1967, ch. 121, § 3; P.L. 1967, ch. 143, § 1; P.L. 1967, ch. 164, § 1; P.L. 1971, ch. 50, § 2; P.L. 1973, ch. 177, § 1; P.L. 1973, ch. 202, § 1; P.L. 1980, ch. 117, § 1; P.L. 1980, ch. 178, § 1; P.L. 1980, ch. 259, § 1; P.L. 1980, ch. 367, § 1; P.L. 1982, ch. 202, § 1; P.L. 1992, ch. 306, art. 3, § 2; P.L. 1994, ch. 142, § 5; P.L. 1998, ch. 411, § 3; P.L. 2007, ch. 510, § 16; P.L. 2009, ch. 310, § 49; P.L. 2011, ch. 408, § 11; P.L. 2011, ch. 409, § 11; P.L. 2015, ch. 141, art. 21, § 15.)