Public pension fund faces test

Because if it doesn’t, Mississippi’s Public Employees Retirement System may be asking agencies to contribute more to make up the public pension fund’s deficit. That’s because, after two poor years of market returns, the $25 billion pension fund is no longer on track to meet its long-term goals. In fact, under PERS rules, if the fund doesn’t recover by this time next year, the board is supposed to seek higher contribution levels.

“We are not funded where we should be,” Executive Director Pat Robertson said. “However, we are not in a crisis. The board has a policy in place to make sure we don’t get to a crisis.”

It’s the first major test of a plan to stabilize PERS enacted in 2011. After years of changes, the plan locked in employers to paying 15.75 percent of payroll for pension contributions. PERS is supposed to use the vast majority of those contributions money to chip away at its unfunded liability — the difference between what it has on hand now and how much it needs to pay all current and future benefits. The idea was that by 2042, PERS would have enough assets to meet 80 percent of its total liabilities.

Clarion Ledger