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Florida’s 303 public pension systems are unsustainable

Florida has the third highest number of public pension systems in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the states with the most public pension systems were Pennsylvania (1,425 systems), Illinois (457 systems) and Florida (303 systems).

The U.S. Census Bureau publishes The Annual Survey of Public Pensions: State- and Locally-Administered Defined Benefit Data, which is a census of all 222 state government pension systems and a sample of local government pension systems. The latest report was published in August 2013.

The six states with the largest amounts of total state and local cash and investment holdings in 2011 (the latest year data is available) were California ($600.0 billion), New York ($319.3 billion), Texas ($192.6 billion), Florida ($157.8 billion), Ohio ($152.4 billion) and Illinois ($127.7 billion) in total holdings and investments. Total holdings and investments in these states comprised just over half (51.2 percent) of total holdings and investments for the United States.

The Florida pension system is overseen by the State Board of Administration (SBA), which was created by the Florida Constitution and is governed by a three-member Board of Trustees (Trustees), comprised of the Governor as Chair, the Chief Financial Officer and the Attorney General.

The basic problem is there are fewer paying into public pensions with a growing number taking funds out of the systems. The report looks at active public pension members versus beneficiaries over time. The ratios of member to beneficiaries are: 1991 2.8 to 1, 2001 2.3 to 1 and 2011 1.7 to 1. Public pension systems are unsustainable.

For a larger view click on the chart.

The Florida Retirement System (FRS) carries the bulk of the public pension system load in the sunshine state. Cities, counties, school boards and public hospital employees pay into this system. According to the MyFRS website, “The FRS Pension Plan funding valuation takes place annually, available December 1st and was 86.9 percent funded, as of July 1, 2012. You can view a chart that compares the plan’s actuarial liabilities to the plan’s actuarial assets for the past five fiscal years. The annual benefit payments to FRS retirees and beneficiaries (shown in white on the chart) are a part of the overall plan liabilities. The market value of the total assets of the FRS Pension Plan is updated monthly.”

The Census Department reports the following public pension data for Florida (in thousands of dollars): Total contributions of $4,993,460, total employee contributions of $349,947, contributions from the state government $875,190, and from local government $3,768,323. Contributions from state and local government means from Florida taxpayers.

According to the report in 2011 Florida’s public pension systems payed out between $20,000 to $24,999 on average.

Defined benefit public pension programs are a growing financial burden for cities, counties, school boards and public hospitals. If one pension system fails Florida taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

RELATED: Florida’s public pensions still bleeding taxpayers