Good news for state employees, jury still out on plan’s math

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Published: September 23,2012

Tags: PERS, retirement system, state employees, state pensions

In a move that will make everyone who works for Mississippi feel better,

state government will be asked to put $44 million more into the Mississippi retirement system next year to shore up the program for an estimated 30 years, the system director has told lawmakers.

Pat Robertson, executive director of the Public Employees Retirement System, has met with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. She told the committee that public schools and cities and counties would also be expected to contribute more to the system.

However, dollar figures were not available, making it impossible to see if the plan is feasible for the state’s long-term fiscal health.

Yet, Robertson said she expects the PERS board to implement a new employer contribution rate of 15.75 percent in October. That would be up from 12.93 percent paid into the system by employers in fiscal 2011.

Robertson said there is no plan to increase the amount employees pay into the system.

Ten years ago, Mississippi PERS had enough money to cover 88 percent of its long-term responsibilities. Now, it has enough money to cover 62.2 percent.

Robertson said actuaries told the board that a stable rate of 15.75 over 30 years would raise that to 80 percent.

Robertson told lawmakers that regardless of any change in the contribution rate, the retirement system was “stable and the benefits are secure” for the more than 91,000 retirees.

Under the current structure, all of PERS is a defined benefit plan, with managers making investments for all participants and retirees receiving a guaranteed payout based on years worked and wages earned.

Mississippi PERS manages pension funds for state and local government retirees and 163,000 active employees. The members include teachers, firefighters, state hospital workers, prison guards and other nonfederal government workers. State troopers have a separate fund, while legislators have a supplemental fund on top of the regular plan.

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