The Empire State's largest public pension plan still has not fully recovered from the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2008-09, a new report from the state comptroller's office confirms.
Fiscal watchdogs note many elected officials initially didn't have to worry about pension costs a decade ago. Now the rates are closely watched for what they could mean for property tax bills.
"Pretty much the entire generation of state and local elected officials took office and came into their own during a period when pension costs were artificially low or rock bottom," said Empire Center President EJ McMahon.
The number of retirees receiving pensions over $100,000 from the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) exceeded 3,000 for the first time during the system’s 2016 fiscal year, according to data uploaded today to SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s transparency website.
New York's largest public pension fund earned 2 percent in its first fiscal quarter—which isn't necessarily good or bad news for taxpayers.
New York City firefighters and fire officers who retired during the 2016 fiscal year were eligible for average pensions of $119,863, a 6 percent increase over the previous year, according to data gleaned from 15,557 Fire Department pension records updated today on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s transparency website.
Taxpayer-funded pension contributions in New York City will need to increase by a total of $732 million between fiscal years 2018 and 2020 due to the pension funds' paltry investment earnings in the recently concluded 2016 fiscal year, City Comptroller Scott Stringer has just disclosed.
Whereas NYSUT can negotiate lower benefits for its own employees, McMahon said "School districts don't have that choice. In fact, they have to keep giving raises to people."
During the first few years after Wall Street prices bottomed out in 2009, public-pension funds across the country reaped double-digit returns. They were riding a bull market pumped up by ultra-low interest rates, and it wouldn’t last.
Now pension managers have been struggling to break even — the predictable outcome of a funding strategy that continues to expose taxpayers to unreasonable long-term risks.