Nevada’s public retirement system unfunded liability falls again | RecordCourier.com

Nevada’s public retirement system unfunded liability falls again

by Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

Climbing back financially from the impact of the recession, the Public Employees Retirement System has reduced its unfunded liability to just 25.6 percent.

That number is the shortfall PERS would face if the system was dissolved and it had to pay retirement to every covered public employee.

The PERS Board was told Thursday the system's total assets as of the end of the fiscal year were $38.8 billion. As of Thursday, Financial Officer Steve Edmundson said assets totaled $40.1 billion.

PERS, which was recognized by the Wall Street Journal a year ago as one of the best managed public retirement systems in the nation, provides retirement benefits to 105,801 state, county, local and school district employees in Nevada.

In addition to those active workers, there are just more than 64,000 retirees currently receiving benefits from PERS.

Executive Director Tina Leiss said the funded ratio of 74.5 percent is significantly better than the 68 percent it was at when the recession hit. The only time that percentage was higher was the year before the recession when it topped 77 percent.

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She said one reason for the improvement in FY2017 and the growth of total assets is PERS finished the fiscal year June 30 with an 11 percent rate of return on its investments.

"The best funding policy would be to cut a check for the unfunded and put it in, but we live in a real world," said actuary Brad Ramirez.

He said this is the fourth consecutive year the unfunded liability of the system has decreased and PERS is on track to be fully funded in just under 19 years.

The system is divided into several groups. The vast majority are "regular" employees of those governmental entities — 93,276 of them who average just under 46 years old with 9.8 years of service and an average salary of $49,502.

The next largest group is the police/fire employees who are separated because their contribution rate is significantly higher and their potential tenure on the job much shorter. There are 12,525 police/fire PERS members who average 30 years old with 11 years of service and a salary of $73,841.

The other two groups covered by PERS are the state's judges and lawmakers. The tiniest group is state lawmakers with just 31 active members.

There are 93 state judges averaging 59 years of age with just under 12 years service and a salary of $195,642. There are 20 non-state judges (municipal court judges) about the same age and just under 16 years of service making $140,017 a year.