Retirement Benefits

Retirement Benefits



Pension Benefits

Survivor Benefits

Military Service Credit OBRA


                                         Contact: Employee's Retirement System - 414- 278-4207

The Employees' Retirement System of the County of Milwaukee (the 'Retirement System') was created to encourage qualified personnel to enter and remain in the service of the County of Milwaukee (the 'County') by providing for a system of retirement, disability and death benefits for its employees. The Retirement System was created by Section 201.24 of the General Ordinances (the 'Ordinance') of the County. The authority to manage and control the Retirement System is vested in the Pension Board. The Pension Board consists of nine members - three members appointed by the County Executive (subject to confirmation by the County Board of Supervisors), two members appointed by County Board Chairman (subject to confirmation by the County Board of Supervisors), three employee members elected by the employee participants and one retiree member elected by retired participants. The following discussion is a brief synopsis of the various regulations. Please keep in mind that this is a technical area which is regulated by Federal and State laws, Milwaukee County Ordinances and labor contracts. If you need further clarification, please contact the Retirement Division.


Eligibility and Enrollment

All Milwaukee County employees who have a regularly scheduled work week of twenty hours or more and are Regular Appointments, Temporary Appointments or Exempt Appointments are automatically members of the System by Ordinance. (Some hourly employees may be eligible to participate per their union contract.) You will be asked to complete a membership form and to designate a beneficiary within thirty (30) days of your eligibility to enroll.

Some employees are excluded from membership: for example, employees who do not have a regularly scheduled work week or who are scheduled for less than 20 hours per week. Some employees are 'optional', that is, they can choose to join the pension system and have social security deducted but they must pay the annual 6% contribution. These 'optional' employees are generally Emergency Appointments and Seasonal or Temporary employees such as Lifeguard, Park Attendants, or Interns.  Optional employees who do not elect to join the Pension System will be requested to enroll in the OBRA 1990 Retirement System.  The benefits earned in the OBRA system are discussed below.




Historically, the Retirement System has been substantially noncontributory. As of January 1, 2011, non-represented employees and elected officials eligible for pension benefits (regardless of vesting status) are required to contribute 2% of their pre-tax earnable compensation, after appropriate FICA deductions, to the Retirement System. The contribution will be increased to 3% and 4% of salary beginning June 12, 2011 and then beginning December 11, 2011, respectively, for non-represented employees excluding elected officials. Those contributions will be used to help pay the annual cost of providing pension benefits to retirees. It should be noted that the 2011 State Budget Repair Bill might be implemented later in the year with the potential of requiring a 6% employee contribution rate. 

Contributions due from the County to the Retirement System consist of amounts sufficient to fund the annual normal cost and interest on and amortization of the unfunded or overfunded actuarial accrued liability. A substantial portion of the current year’s contribution is paid to the Retirement System in the following year.



 Pension Benefits


The normal retirement benefit is a monthly pension for the life of the member beginning at normal retirement age. The pension amount is determined by the following formula: Multiplier x Creditable Service x Final Average Salary. Optional forms of payment that are the actuarial equivalent of the member’s benefit may be elected upon retirement.
For most members, the normal retirement age is either 60 or 64 depending on ERS enrollment date and collective bargaining agreement. A few labor agreements also require a minimum of 5 years creditable service in addition to the age requirement. For deputy sheriff members, the normal retirement age is 57 or age 55 with 15 years of creditable service. Depending on enrollment date and collective bargaining agreement, some active members are eligible to retire when their age added to their years of creditable service equals 75 (the “Rule of 75”). The multiplier is determined by Ordinance, collective bargaining agreement and ERS enrollment date. At this time, the multiplier percentage can be 1.5%, 1.6%, 2% or 2.5%. A member’s 3 or 5 consecutive years of highest earnings are used to calculate their final average salary as defined by Ordinance and labor agreement. Annually after retirement the monthly benefit is increased by 2% of the benefit paid for the first full month of retirement. By Ordinance, the maximum benefit (excluding post-retirement increases) payable to a member cannot exceed the sum of 80% of the member’s final average monthly salary.
An ERS member who meets the requirements for an accidental or ordinary disability retirement benefit is entitled to an amount computed in the same manner as a normal pension but not less than 60% of the member’s final average salary for accidental disability. A total of 15 years of creditable service is required to apply for ordinary disability.
A member who is 55 years of age and has 15 years of credited service may elect to receive early reduced retirement benefits. The member would be entitled to a benefit computed in the same manner as a normal pension with a lifetime reduction of 5% for each year prior to the normal retirement date.

Vesting is defined as the right to a pension benefit. The current vesting requirement is 5 years of credited service for most employees and 10 years of service for Deputy Sheriffs. Members who terminate Milwaukee County employment after becoming vested but before they are eligible to receive a benefit are known as deferred vested. Deferred vested members can receive pension benefits beginning the month following attainment of normal retirement age.


 Survivor Benefits

Upon the death of an active ERS member who is not yet eligible to retire (and usually after one year of service depending on labor agreement), the surviving dependent spouse with one dependent child (as defined by Ordinance) will receive 40% of the deceased participant’s salary offset by an amount equal to Social Security benefits payable to the spouse. An additional 10% of salary, offset by Social Security, is paid for each dependent child. The total benefit, if there are more than five eligible dependent children, generally cannot exceed 90% of salary including Social Security benefits. Upon attaining age 60 (if not remarried), the dependent spouse will receive 50% of the normal retirement benefit considering projected service to the time the deceased employee would have attained age 60. If there is no dependent spouse or child, the death benefit payable to a designated beneficiary is equal to 50% of the deceased participant’s final average salary, but not to exceed $2,000. In order to receive lump sum benefits, you will be asked to complete a beneficiary designation form upon enrollment in ERS. Please remember to keep your beneficiary designation current. Special survivor provisions cover Deputy Sheriffs if their death occurs as a result of an accident in the actual performance of duty.  


 Military Service Credit


ERS members may qualify for additional pension service credit for time served in the United States Armed Forces between January 1, 1938 and December 31, 1974. The maximum military credit (or fractions thereof) is four (4) based on total County pension service credit upon retirement as follows:

Years of County Service
Years of Military Credit
Up to 1
Up to 2
Up to 3
Up to 4 (maximum)

Military service credit cannot be used toward determining pension service credit required for vesting or retirement.

To request for military service credit, you will need to complete an application form and provide a copy of your Form DD214 (military discharge). Application forms are available from the ERS office.  





The OBRA 1990 Retirement System of the County of Milwaukee (known as OBRA) was established to provide retirement benefits for temporary, seasonal and other non-traditional employees who do not elect to enroll in ERS. The OBRA system is non-contributory. OBRA members are immediately vested and earn a benefit equal to 2% of their covered salary for each year of OBRA service. Benefits are payable at age 65. OBRA has no provision for death, survivor or disability benefits.



Milwaukee County is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer that is actively seeking qualified applicants for various positions throughout County government. Milwaukee County does not discriminate based on age, ancestry/national origin, arrest/conviction record, color, creed, disability, marital status, military membership, race, sex or sexual orientation.

If special accommodations are needed, please contact 414-278-4210

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