By Marsha Shuler
Capitol news bureau
March 08, 2013
State employee and teachers’ retirement systems are losing active members and their pension contributions, which will lead to the shifting of more costs to state government and local school districts, a state panel heard Thursday.
Retirement system actuaries touched on the development during a meeting of the Public Retirement Systems Actuarial Committee which increased the percent contribution the employers will pay for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The bump is associated with a variety of factors, including a decision that reduced how much funding is projected to come from investment earnings and higher required payments toward eradication of system unfunded accrued liabilities — money needed to pay promised benefits for system members.
The UAL for Louisiana’s four statewide retirement systems jumped from $18.5 billion to $19.3 billion during the last fiscal year — most of it attributed to state employees and teachers’ systems.
The panel sets new employer contribution rates each year.
The employer contribution to the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System jumped from 30.6 percent to 31.7 percent of payroll and Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana from 24.5 percent to a projected 27.1 percent of payroll.
The number of active LASERS members dropped from 54,930 to 52,342 state employees in the last fiscal year and TRSL actives dropped from 86,742 to 84,513.
“The decline in the number of state workers is not figured into our evaluation report,” Legislative Actuary Paul Richmond said. “It’s factored in after it occurs ... but certainly it does have a significant impact.”
Richmond specifically mentioned the upcoming major loss in state employees as private hospitals take over management and operation of LSU public hospitals.
The number of state employees, including those in higher education, and public school teachers has declined in recent years with Jindal administration continued budget cutting; initiatives moving traditional state jobs to the private sector particularly in the health care field; and education system revamps.
Last year, Gov. Bobby Jindal also tried to change state employee pension system laws to require current employees to contribute more while working longer for less benefit.
The Legislature rejected the changes that Jindal said were needed because the current retirement system was too costly for the state and “unsustainable.”
A large portion of LASERS’ and TRSL’s unfunded accrued liability is due to the legislature and prior administrations not putting in the money needed to pay for benefits they granted.
The constitution requires the state to pay off that initial “legacy” debt by 2029. The schedule of debt payoff is backloaded with increasing state payments.
LASERS actuary Shelley Johnson said a turning point has been reached because for the first time the payment has surpassed the interest on the debt.
“Going forward we expect that to continue,” she said.
The number of active employees in Louisiana’s two other smaller statewide systems — School Employees and State Police — also declined.
“We continue to experience active trooper declines having the effect of increasing employer contribution rates because of declining payroll,” system actuary Charles Hall said.
In addition, the new retirees coming on board are paid more than the older retirees so their pension checks are more, Hall said.