Public Employee Pension System Data: FY 2014 vs. FY 2013

The implementation of new rules by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) represent significant changes in how retirement systems report pension liabilities.

To examine the effects of the reporting changes, Governing compiled financial data for 80 state and local pension systems that had published reports for fiscal year 2014. Figures reported in fiscal year 2013 using GASB 25 standards were compared to fiscal year 2014 figures reported under the new GASB 67 standards. The funding status improved for the majority of systems reviewed, mostly as a result of strong investment returns. Fifteen of the systems now, though, appear less funded under the new standards. More than a third of the plans reviewed also revised down their discount rates used to estimate total liabilities.

Select a pension plan below to compare its 2014 financial data to the prior fiscal year. Please note that systems use different valuation dates to estimate total liabilities and assets. A few systems also implemented other changes affecting reported funding levels.

SOURCE: Governing analysis of pension data obtained from retirement system financial reports

Plans With Largest Unfunded Liability Increases

While the majority of the 80 plans reviewed recorded declines in reported unfunded liabilities between fiscal years 2013 and 2014, a few saw liabilities jump significantly. The following reported the largest percentage increases in unfunded pension liabilities:

Pension PlanChange in Unfunded Liability2013 Unfunded Actuarial Liability (under GASB 25)2014 Unfunded Actuarial Liability (under GASB 67)
New Jersey Teachers129.2%$23,039,505$52,812,800
Texas ERS128.8%$6,320,348$14,460,800
Texas Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental Retirement Plan119.5%$306,695$673,100
New Jersey PERS: State Employees106.7%$10,802,000$22,326,500
New Jersey Police & Fire73.4%$8,869,518$15,379,800
Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System55.9%$13,854,474$21,592,205
Arizona State Retirement System55.7%$9,502,000$14,796,602
Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System44.5%$4,359,280$6,297,493
New Jersey PERS: Local43.3%$7,031,000$10,073,300
Pennsylvania School Employees21.4%$32,598,554$39,580,717
SOURCE: Governing analysis of pension data obtained from retirement system financial reports

FY 2013 vs. 2014 Discount Rate Changes

About one-third of plans surveyed lowered their expected rate of return in 2014, while the vast majority kept or improved their assumptions about their long-term investment return.