For purposes of the School Employees Retirement Act, unless the context otherwise requires:
(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 School Retirement Fund together with regular interest thereon, compounded monthly, quarterly, semiannually, or annually;
(2)(a) Actuarial equivalent means the equality in value of the aggregate amounts expected to be received under different forms of payment.
(b) For a school employee hired before July 1, 2017, the determinations shall be based on the 1994 Group Annuity Mortality Table reflecting sex-distinct factors blended using twenty-five percent of the male table and seventy-five percent of the female table. An interest rate of eight percent per annum shall be reflected in making these determinations except when a lump-sum settlement is made to an estate.
(c) For a school employee hired on or after July 1, 2017, or rehired on or after July 1, 2017, after termination of employment and being paid a retirement benefit or taking a refund of contributions, the determinations shall be based on a unisex mortality table and an interest rate specified by the board. Both the mortality table and the interest rate shall be recommended by the actuary and approved by the retirement board following an actuarial experience study, a benefit adequacy study, or a plan valuation. The mortality table, interest rate, and actuarial factors in effect on the school employee's retirement date will be used to calculate actuarial equivalency of any retirement benefit. Such interest rate may be, but is not required to be, equal to the assumed rate.
(d) If the lump-sum settlement is made to an estate, the interest rate will be determined by the AAA-rated segment of the Bloomberg Barclays Long U.S. Corporate Bond Index as of the prior June 30, rounded to the next lower quarter percent. If the AAA-rated segment of the Bloomberg Barclays Long U.S. Corporate Bond Index is discontinued or replaced, a substitute index shall be selected by the board which shall be a reasonably representative index;
(3) Beneficiary means any person in receipt of a school retirement allowance or other benefit provided by the act;
(4)(a) Compensation means gross wages or salaries payable to the member for personal services performed during the plan year and includes (i) overtime pay, (ii) member retirement contributions, (iii) retroactive salary payments paid pursuant to court order, arbitration, or litigation and grievance settlements, and (iv) amounts contributed by the member to plans under sections 125, 403(b), and 457 of the Internal Revenue Code as defined in section 49-801.01 or any other section of the code which defers or excludes such amounts from income.
(b) Compensation does not include (i) fraudulently obtained amounts as determined by the retirement board, (ii) amounts for accrued unused sick leave or accrued unused vacation leave converted to cash payments, (iii) insurance premiums converted into cash payments, (iv) reimbursement for expenses incurred, (v) fringe benefits, (vi) per diems paid as expenses, (vii) bonuses for services not actually rendered, (viii) early retirement inducements, (ix) cash awards, (x) severance pay, or (xi) employer contributions made for the purposes of separation payments made at retirement.
(c) Compensation in excess of the limitations set forth in section 401(a)(17) of the Internal Revenue Code as defined in section 49-801.01 shall be disregarded. For an employee who was a member of the retirement system before the first plan year beginning after December 31, 1995, the limitation on compensation shall not be less than the amount which was allowed to be taken into account under the retirement system as in effect on July 1, 1993;
(5) County school official means (a) until July 1, 2000, the county superintendent or district superintendent and any person serving in his or her office who is required by law to have a teacher's certificate and (b) on or after July 1, 2000, the county superintendent, county school administrator, or district superintendent and any person serving in his or her office who is required by law to have a teacher's certificate;
(6)(a) Creditable service means prior service for which credit is granted under sections 79-926 to 79-929, service credit purchased under sections 79-933.03 to 79-933.06 and 79-933.08, and all service rendered while a contributing member of the retirement system;
(b) For employees hired prior to July 1, 2018, creditable service includes working days, sick days, vacation days, holidays, and any other leave days for which the employee is paid regular wages as part of the employee's agreement with the employer. Creditable service does not include lump-sum payments to the employee upon termination or retirement in lieu of accrued benefits for such days, eligibility and vesting credit, service years for which member contributions are withdrawn and not repaid by the member, service rendered for which the retirement board determines that the member was paid less in compensation than the minimum wage as provided in the Wage and Hour Act, or service which the board determines was rendered with the intent to defraud the retirement system;
(c) For employees hired on or after July 1, 2018, creditable service includes working days, used accrued sick days, used accrued vacation days, federal and state holidays, and jury duty leave for which the member is paid full compensation by the employer. Creditable service does not include lump-sum payments to the employee upon termination or retirement in lieu of accrued benefits for such days, eligibility and vesting credit, service years for which member contributions are withdrawn and not repaid by the member, service rendered for which the retirement board determines that the member was paid less in compensation than the minimum wage as provided in the Wage and Hour Act, service which the board determines was rendered with the intent to defraud the retirement system, or any other type of leave not expressly included in this subdivision; and
(d) Creditable service does not include service provided to an employer in the retirement system provided under the Class V School Employees Retirement Act;
(7) Current benefit means the initial benefit increased by all adjustments made pursuant to the School Employees Retirement Act;
(8) Disability means an inability to engage in any substantially gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which was initially diagnosed or became disabling while the member was an active participant in the plan and which can be expected to result in death or be of a long-continued and indefinite duration;
(9) Disability retirement allowance means the annuity paid to a person upon retirement for disability under section 79-952;
(10) Disability retirement date means the first day of the month following the date upon which a member's request for disability retirement is received on a retirement application provided by the retirement system if the member has terminated employment in the school system and has complied with sections 79-951 to 79-954 as such sections refer to disability retirement;
(11) Early retirement inducement means, but is not limited to:
(a) A benefit, bonus, or payment to a member in exchange for an agreement by the member to terminate from employment;
(b) A benefit, bonus, or payment paid to a member in addition to the member's retirement benefit;
(c) Lump-sum or installment cash payments, except payments for accrued unused leave converted to cash payments;
(d) An additional salary or wage component of any kind that is being paid as an incentive to leave employment and not for personal services performed for which creditable service is granted;
(e) Partial or full employer payment of a member's health, dental, life, or long-term disability insurance benefits or cash in lieu of such insurance benefits that extend beyond the member’s termination of employment and contract of employment dates. This subdivision does not apply to any period during which the member is contributing to the retirement system and being awarded creditable service; and
(f) Any other form of separation payments made by an employer to a member at termination, including, but not limited to, purchasing retirement annuity contracts for the member pursuant to section 79-514, depositing money for the member in an account established under section 403(b) of the Internal Revenue Code except for payments for accrued unused leave, or purchasing service credit for the member pursuant to section 79-933.08;
(12) Eligibility and vesting credit means credit for years, or a fraction of a year, of participation in a Nebraska government plan for purposes of determining eligibility for benefits under the School Employees Retirement Act. Such credit shall not be included as years of creditable service in the benefit calculation;
(13) Emeritus member means a person (a) who has entered retirement under the provisions of the act, including those persons who have retired since July 1, 1945, under any other regularly established retirement or pension system as contemplated by section 79-916, (b) who has thereafter been reemployed in any capacity by a public school, a Class V school district, or a school under the control and management of the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Colleges, the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, or a community college board of governors or has become a state school official or county school official subsequent to such retirement, and (c) who has applied to the board for emeritus membership in the retirement system. The school district or agency shall certify to the retirement board on forms prescribed by the retirement board that the annuitant was reemployed, rendered a service, and was paid by the district or agency for such services;
(14) Employer means the State of Nebraska or any subdivision thereof or agency of the state or subdivision authorized by law to hire school employees or to pay their compensation;
(15)(a) Final average compensation means:
(i) Except as provided in subdivision (ii) of this subdivision:
(A) The sum of the member's total compensation during the three twelve-month periods of service as a school employee in which such compensation was the greatest divided by thirty-six; or
(B) If a member has such compensation for less than thirty-six months, the sum of the member's total compensation in all months divided by the total number of months of his or her creditable service therefor; and
(ii) For an employee who became a member on or after July 1, 2013:
(A) The sum of the member's total compensation during the five twelve-month periods of service as a school employee in which such compensation was the greatest divided by sixty; or
(B) If a member has such compensation for less than sixty months, the sum of the member's total compensation in all months divided by the total number of months of his or her creditable service therefor.
(b) Payments under the Retirement Incentive Plan pursuant to section 79-855 and Staff Development Assistance pursuant to section 79-856 shall not be included in the determination of final average compensation;
(16) Fiscal year means any year beginning July 1 and ending June 30 next following;
(17) Hire date or date of hire means the first day of compensated service subject to retirement contributions;
(18) Initial benefit means the retirement benefit calculated at the time of retirement;
(19) Member means any person who has an account in the School Retirement Fund;
(20) Participation means qualifying for and making required deposits to the retirement system during the course of a plan year;
(21) Plan year means the twelve-month period beginning on July 1 and ending on June 30 of the following year;
(22) Prior service means service rendered as a school employee in the public schools of the State of Nebraska prior to July 1, 1945;
(23) Public school means any and all schools offering instruction in elementary or high school grades, as defined in section 79-101, which schools are supported by public funds and are wholly under the control and management of the State of Nebraska or any subdivision thereof, including (a) schools or other entities established, maintained, and controlled by the school boards of local school districts, except Class V school districts, (b) any educational service unit, and (c) any other educational institution wholly supported by public funds, except schools under the control and management of the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Colleges, the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, or the community college boards of governors for any community college areas;
(24) Regular employee means an employee hired by a public school or under contract in a regular full-time or part-time position who works a full-time or part-time schedule on an ongoing basis for twenty or more hours per week. An employee hired as described in this subdivision to provide service for less than twenty hours per week but who provides service for an average of twenty hours or more per week in each calendar month of any three calendar months of a plan year shall, beginning with the next full payroll period, commence contributions and shall be deemed a regular employee for all future employment with the same employer;
(25) Regular interest means interest fixed at a rate equal to the daily treasury yield curve for one-year treasury securities, as published by the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, that applies on July 1 of each year, which may be credited monthly, quarterly, semiannually, or annually as the board may direct;
(26) Relinquished creditable service means, with respect to a member who has withdrawn his or her accumulated contributions under section 79-955, the total amount of creditable service which such member has given up as a result of his or her election not to remain a member of the retirement system;
(27) Required deposit means the deduction from a member's compensation as provided for in section 79-958 which shall be deposited in the School Retirement Fund;
(28) Retirement means qualifying for and accepting a school or disability retirement allowance granted under the School Employees Retirement Act;
(29) Retirement application means the form approved and provided by the retirement system for acceptance of a member's request for either regular or disability retirement;
(30) Retirement board or board means the Public Employees Retirement Board;
(31) Retirement date means (a) if the member has terminated employment, the first day of the month following the date upon which a member's request for retirement is received on a retirement application provided by the retirement system or (b) if the member has filed a retirement application but has not yet terminated employment, the first day of the month following the date on which the member terminates employment. An application may be filed no more than one hundred twenty days prior to the effective date of the member's initial benefit;
(32) Retirement system means the School Employees Retirement System of the State of Nebraska;
(33) Savings annuity means payments for life, made in equal monthly payments, derived from the accumulated contributions of a member;
(34) School employee means a contributing member who earns service credit pursuant to section 79-927. For purposes of this section, contributing member means the following persons who receive compensation from a public school: (a) Regular employees; (b) regular employees having retired pursuant to the School Employees Retirement Act who subsequently provide compensated service on a regular basis in any capacity; and (c) regular employees hired by a public school on an ongoing basis to assume the duties of other regular employees who are temporarily absent. Substitute employees, temporary employees, and employees who have not attained the age of eighteen years shall not be considered school employees;
(35) School year means one fiscal year which includes not less than one thousand instructional hours or, in the case of service in the State of Nebraska prior to July 1, 1945, not less than seventy-five percent of the then legal school year;
(36) School retirement allowance means the total of the savings annuity and the service annuity or formula annuity paid a person who has retired under sections 79-931 to 79-935. The monthly payments shall be payable at the end of each calendar month during the life of a retired member. The first payment shall include all amounts accrued since the effective date of the award of annuity. The last payment shall be at the end of the calendar month in which such member dies or in accordance with the payment option chosen by the member;
(37) Service means employment as a school employee and shall not be deemed interrupted by (a) termination at the end of the school year of the contract of employment of an employee in a public school if the employee enters into a contract of employment in any public school, except a school in a Class V school district, for the following school year, (b) temporary or seasonal suspension of service that does not terminate the employee's employment, (c) leave of absence authorized by the employer for a period not exceeding twelve months, (d) leave of absence because of disability, or (e) military service when properly authorized by the retirement board. Service does not include any period of disability for which disability retirement benefits are received under sections 79-951 to 79-953;
(38) Service annuity means payments for life, made in equal monthly installments, derived from appropriations made by the State of Nebraska to the retirement system;
(39) State deposit means the deposit by the state in the retirement system on behalf of any member;
(40) State school official means the Commissioner of Education and his or her professional staff who are required by law or by the State Department of Education to hold a certificate as such term is defined in section 79-807;
(41) Substitute employee means a person hired by a public school as a temporary employee to assume the duties of regular employees due to a temporary absence of any regular employees. Substitute employee does not mean a person hired as a regular employee on an ongoing basis to assume the duties of other regular employees who are temporarily absent;
(42) Surviving spouse means (a) the spouse married to the member on the date of the member's death or (b) the spouse or former spouse of the member if survivorship rights are provided under a qualified domestic relations order filed with the board pursuant to the Spousal Pension Rights Act. The spouse or former spouse shall supersede the spouse married to the member on the date of the member's death as provided under a qualified domestic relations order. If the benefits payable to the spouse or former spouse under a qualified domestic relations order are less than the value of benefits entitled to the surviving spouse, the spouse married to the member on the date of the member's death shall be the surviving spouse for the balance of the benefits;
(43) Temporary employee means an employee hired by a public school who is not a regular employee and who is hired to provide service for a limited period of time to accomplish a specific purpose or task. When such specific purpose or task is complete, the employment of such temporary employee shall terminate and in no case shall the temporary employment period exceed one year in duration;
(44) Termination of employment occurs on the date on which the member experiences a bona fide separation from service of employment with the member's employer, the date of which separation is determined by the end of the member's contractual agreement or, if there is no contract or only partial fulfillment of a contract, by the employer.
A member shall not be deemed to have terminated employment if the member subsequently provides service to any employer participating in the retirement system provided for in the School Employees Retirement Act within one hundred eighty days after ceasing employment unless such service:
(a) Is bona fide unpaid voluntary service or substitute service, provided on an intermittent basis; or
(b) Is as provided in subsection (2) of section 79-920.
Nothing in this subdivision precludes an employer from adopting a policy which limits or denies employees who have terminated employment from providing voluntary or substitute service within one hundred eighty days after termination.
A member shall not be deemed to have terminated employment if the board determines that a claimed termination was not a bona fide separation from service with the employer or that a member was compensated for a full contractual period when the member terminated prior to the end date of the contract; and
(45) Voluntary service or volunteer means providing bona fide unpaid service to any employer.