George Hopkins, director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, told me in a story I broke here that retirees covered by the system could be in line to repay more than $5 million in excess retirement payments once a review was completed.

I’m guessing that estimate will prove conservative.

A law that took effect July 1 ended an earnings limitation — in the $23,000 to $27,000 range depending on the year — imposed on ATRS retirees who went back to work for an ATRS member agency. It turns out many ATRS retirees and agencies with which they took new jobs did not report their new jobs.

Hopkins explained the situation in a memo here.


Many of the double dippers were school officials who moved from public school districts to colleges and universities. Hopkins has asked for payroll information from three universities so far — Henderson, UCA and Arkansas Tech — to compare with ATRS records to see whether retirees who’ve gone back to work exceeded the earnings limit. Reviews of the University of Arkansas campuses and Arkansas State and other state colleges have not begun.

At just the three schools, Hopkins has identified 170 ATRS retirees currently employed. The  review, not yet complete, has so far identified seven who earned in excess of limitations.

The total they must repay: $711,421.

Letters have been mailed in those cases. Employees will be asked to repay the money, in a lump sum or through withholding of benefits.

Similar reviews also will be conducted of public school districts. They will be somewhat easier to check because the law requires the district to automatically file payroll and retirement matching data with ATRS. The colleges and a couple of large school districts in a separate group of ATRS members are not required to file the data routinely, but have been asked to do so by Hopkins.