Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System faces shortfall

Pension consultants told state officials that Iowa’s largest public employees’ pension fund faces a long-term shortfall of over $2 billion.

The Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System, which serves more than 300,000 publicc employees, former employees and retirees, had actuarial assets of $20.76 billion for the state budget year ending June 30, said Patrice Beckham of Milliman Consultants and Actuaries of Omaha. The system is 90.2 percent funded, an improvement compared with 88.4 percent a year earlier, she said.

There is no immediate worry about the fund's ability to pay pensions to retirees, said Donna Mueller, the system's chief executive officer. The pension fund had a 16 percent market value rate of return on its investments for the past state budget year, which she said demonstrates "steady, positive progress toward securing the retirement for all the members."

Joanne Stockdale, a Spirit Lake businesswoman who heads the IPERS board, described the pension fund's shortfall as a "huge liability." But she said retirement system officials are working fervently towards getting it fully funded.

The Iowa Legislature last year approved changes aimed at helping fix the pension fund's long-term financial issues by gradually increasing total pension contribution rates from 9.45 percent of an employee's wages to 11.45 percent over a four-year period that started July 1, 2007. Sixty percent of the contributions are made by government employers, while 40 percent are made by employees.

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