Municipal Pension Funding Increased in Recent Years, but Challenges Remain

Link: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2021/05/municipal-pension-funding-increased-in-recent-years-but-challenges-remain

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The first metric is net amortization, which measures whether total contributions to a public retirement system are sufficient to reduce unfunded liabilities if all actuarial assumptions—primarily investment expectations— are met for that year. Plans with positive net amortization are expected to retire pension debt over time and therefore improve their funded status. 

Pew reviewed the three-year average for net amortization. This figure provides a more complete picture of contribution adequacy given the impact of volatile investment performance and demographic experience on plan assets. In total, the 33 cities in Pew’s analysis achieved positive amortization (104% of the benchmark) from 2015 to 2017. However, individually, more than half of the cities had negative amortization. Notably, Chicago and Dallas contributed less than 50% of the benchmark. In contrast, New Orleans contributed 174%, or $132 million, which was well over the city’s benchmark over the time period. For cities that are poorly funded, net amortization can indicate that they are on a path toward sustainably funding their pension plans. For example, New Orleans and Philadelphia have both increased their contributions significantly in recent years to achieve positive net amortization and decrease unfunded liabilities. On the other hand, better funded cities that fell short of the benchmark may face growing pension debt absent a policy change or adjustment.

Author(s): David Draine

Publication Date: 18 May 2021

Publication Site: Pew Charitable Trusts

How Pandemic-Driven Revenue Shortfalls Could Affect State Pension Contributions

Link: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2021/01/13/how-pandemic-driven-revenue-shortfalls-could-affect-state-pension-contributions

Excerpt:

As states respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, many also face severe revenue shortfalls because of the economic downturn. These gaps between resources and planned spending pose immediate challenges for policymakers, who must balance budgets while addressing increased demand for public health and other essential services. Some states have already tried to cut costs by reducing or delaying contributions to public pension plans, and others may consider doing so if federal aid to states does not materialize.

The pandemic’s effect on state budgets has been significant. Fiscal year 2020 marked the first time that state general fund revenues declined since the Great Recession, with preliminary projections issued since March showing that states expected fiscal 2021 revenues to fall below initial estimates by about 10%, on average. More recent estimates indicate that state revenue shortfalls could total more than $300 billion cumulatively over fiscal years 2020-22.

Author(s): David Draine & Stephanie Connolly

Publication Date: 13 January 2021

Publication Site: Pew Trusts