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Public pensions in Connecticut

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Connecticut public pensions
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Pension system
Number of pension systems 5
State pension systems: State Employees Retirement System
Teachers Retirement System
Judicial Retirement System
Municipal Employees Retirement System
Probate Judges and Employees Retirement System
System type: Defined benefit plan
Pension health (2012)[1]
Fund value: $25,483,251,418[2]
Estimated liabilities: $50,351,312,775[2]
Unfunded liabilities : $24,868,061,357[2]
Percent funded: 50.61%[2]
Percent funded change: Decrease.svg4.25% (from 2010)[2][3]
Percent funded rank: 48[4]
Pension fund members (2012)
Total members: 206,266
Active members: 106,921
Other members: 99,345
Other state pension information
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Public pensions
State public pension plans
Public pension health by state
Connecticut public pensions are the state mechanism by which state and many local government employees in Connecticut receive retirement benefits. The state directly sponsors three pension systems: the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS), the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) and the Judicial Retirement System (JRS). The state also administers two additional systems: the Connecticut Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) and the Connecticut Probate Judges and Employees’ Retirement System (PJERS). The state makes no contributions to these latter two systems, assuming "only a fiduciary responsibility."[5]

A 2012 report from the Pew Center on the States noted that Connecticut's pension system was funded at 53 percent at the close of fiscal year 2010, well below the 80 percent funding level experts recommend. Consequently, Pew designated the state's pension system as cause for "serious concern."[6]

Taking all systems except the Probate Judges and Employees Retirement System (PJERS) into account, the funding ratio for the state's pension programs decreased from 63.28 percent in fiscal year 2008 to 50.61 percent in fiscal year 2012, a decrease of 12.67 percentage points, or 20 percent. Likewise, unfunded liabilities increased from approximately $15.8 billion in fiscal year 2008 to nearly $25 billion in fiscal year 2012.[7][8][9][10][11]


Pension plans

In fiscal year 2012, according to the systems' Actuarial Valuation Reports, Connecticut had a total of 106,921 active members in its retirement plans. Our membership figures divide plan participants into two broad categories: active and other. Active members are current employees contributing to the pension system. Other members include retirees, beneficiaries and other inactive plan participants (usually terminated employees entitled to benefits but not yet receiving them).[12]

The following data was collected from the state's 2012 Actuarial Valuation Reports, which measured fund status as of June 30/July 1, 2012 (valuation reports for PJERS are produced biennially; the most recent PJERS valuation report measured fund status as of December 31, 2011). Valuation reports are annual reports produced by outside consultants, using unaudited data provided by the pension systems themselves, in order to determine what employers in the system should contribute in the coming year to maintain or improve the fiscal health of the pension funds.

Connecticut's Actuarial Valuation Reports for 2012 were produced by Cavanaugh MacDonald Consulting, LLC, a Georgia-based firm that exclusively provides financial consulting to public sector pension and health care plans to governments throughout the United States.[13] The "percentage funded" is calculated by taking the current value of the fund and dividing by the estimated amount of total liabilities. The assumed rates of return used to calculate current fund value vary by system (see "Rate of return" below for more information). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Pew Research Centers cite a percent funded ratio of 80 percent as the minimum threshold for a healthy fund, though the American Academy of Actuaries suggests that all pension systems "have a strategy in place to attain or maintain a funded status of 100 percent or greater."[14][15] The column labeled "SBS figure" refers to a market liability calculation of the fund by the nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions. This analysis uses a rate of return of 3.225 percent, which is based upon the 15-year Treasury bond yield. The organization calls this a "risk-free" rate of return that would make it easier for states to achieve their pension funding requirements in the future. Since 2006, all private sector corporate pension plans have incorporated market costs into their funding schemes.[16]

Basic pension plan information -- Connecticut
Plans Current value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities Membership
State figure SBS figure[17] State figure SBS figure[17]
State Employees’ Retirement System[7] $9,744,985,549 42.3% N/A[18] $13,273,766,185 N/A[18] 47,868 active members
Teachers’ Retirement System[8] $13,734,831,000 55.24% $11,127,397,000 49,808 active members
Judicial Retirement System[9] $174,672,426 54.7% $144,847,720 204 active members
Municipal Employees’ Retirement System[10] $1,828,762,443 85.03% $322,050,452 8,711 active members
Probate Judges and Employees’ Retirement System[11] $85,154,310 116.4% $(12,026,962) 330 active members
TOTALS $25,568,405,728 50.71% 25% $24,856,034,395 $76,754,917,000 106,921 active members

Annual Required Contribution

Annual Required Contributions (ARC) are calculated annually and are a sum of two different costs. The first component is the "normal cost," or what the employer owes to the system in order to support the liabilities gained in the previous year of service. The second component is an additional payment in order to make up for previous liabilities that have not yet been paid for. According to a report by the Pew Center on the States, in 2010 Connecticut paid 87 percent of its annual required contribution.[6]

On June 25, 2012, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) approved a plan to reform the accounting rules for state and local pension funds. These revised standards were set to take effect in fiscal years 2013 and 2014.[19] As a result, ARCs were removed as a reporting requirement. Instead, plan administrators and accountants will use an actuarially determined contribution or a statutory contribution for reporting purposes.[20]

Historical funding levels

Historical pension plan data - all plans*
Year Value of Assets Accrued Liability Unfunded Liability Funded Ratio
2008 $27,232,066,000 $43,033,189,000 $15,801,123,000 63.28%
2010 $25,622,145,000 $46,707,645,000 $21,085,500,000 54.86%
Change from 2008-2010 -$1,609,921,000 $3,674,456,000 $5,284,377,000 -8.43%
*Because the individual systems produce their valuation reports on varying schedules, this summary table only compiles information for those years when comparable figures were produced for each system (PJERS funding progress figures are not included here, as data for 2010 could not be found).

Rate of return

Connecticut's expected rate of return is 8.5 percent for the teachers' fund and 8.25 percent for the other fund.[21]

Connecticut's two main pension funds had a negative rate of return of 0.9 percent in the 2012 fiscal year, which reduced their total assets to about $24 billion. The negative return for the two funds, one for teachers and one for other state employees, contrasts with the 21 percent return for fiscal 2011, which was the highest return in 23 years.[22]


According to a 2012 analysis by the Pew Center for the States, most state pension plans assume an 8 percent rate of return on investments.[23] Critics assert that this assumption is unrealistic, citing changing market conditions and significantly lower investment returns across the board over the past several years.[24] When states lower the rate of return in an effort to predict investment earnings accurately, it increases the current plan liabilities, thereby lowering the percent funded ratio and causing the ARC to increase. This is because future plan liabilities are discounted based on the rate of return, so smaller expected investment returns result in larger actuarially accrued liabilities.[25] For example, on September 21, 2012, the Illinois Teachers Retirement System voted to lower its rate of return from 8.5 percent to 8.0 percent. This change increased the state's fiscal year 2014 ARC from $3.07 billion to $3.36 billion.[26] Similarly, when California's CalPERS reduced its projected annual rate of return from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent in March 2012, it cost the state an additional $303 million for fiscal year 2013.[27]

The 2008 financial crisis had a devastating effect on pension plans nationwide and resulted in slower economic growth and increased market volatility. In light of this, some market strategists find the 8 percent assumption to be overly ambitious. Stanford University Finance Professor Joshua Rauh stated that using past investment performance in this economic climate was "dangerously optimistic."[28] Advocates for a lower assumed rate of return argue that the standard assumptions could cause pension fund managers to engage in more risky investments and imprudent stewardship of public funds. Further, if pension plans were using more conservative assumptions, such as the 3 or 4 percent assumed rate of return used in the private sector, and the plans grew more quickly than expected, the fund would have a surplus and smaller future ARCs, which would be preferable to using optimistic assumptions and potentially being caught with larger-than-expected deficits.[29][30][31][32][33]

On the other hand, traditional public pension plan advocates argue that the dip observed in recent years is not sufficient proof of a long-term, downward trend in investment returns. According to Chris Hoene, executive director at the California Budget Project, "The problem with [the market rate] argument is there isn’t significant evidence other than the short term blip during the economic crisis that there’s been that shift. It’s a speculative argument coming out of a very deep recession."[28]

The National Association of State Retirement Administrators compiled data on the median annualized rate of return for public pensions for the 1-, 3-, 5-, 10-, 20-, and 25-year periods ending in 2013. While the median annualized rate of return failed to meet the 8 percent assumption that most public pensions assume over the 5- and 10-year periods, it was just shy (7.9 percent) over the 20-year period, and it exceeded 8 percent for the 1-, 3-, and 25-year periods. It is important to note that the NASRA data is reporting the median returns, indicating that even though median annualized returns exceeded 8 percent in the 25-year period, the investment portfolios for half of the examined public pension funds failed to meet an 8 percent assumed rate of return.[34]

In September 2013, the nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions published an analysis of state pension funding levels. In its calculations, State Budget Solutions used a 3.2 percent rate of return, the 15-year Treasury bond yield as of August 21, 2013, to discount plan liabilities.

The research found that in all states combined, state public employee pension plans have only 39 percent of the assets they need to cover their promised payments—a $4.1 trillion gap. According to the report, Connecticut's public pension plans were 25% funded, making it the 49th most funded state.[35]

Moody's report on adjusted pension liabilities

On June 27, 2013, Moody's Investor Service released its report on adjusted pension liabilities in the states. The Moody's report ranked states "based on ratios measuring the size of their adjusted net pension liabilities (ANPL) relative to several measures of economic capacity." In its calculations of net pension liabilities, Moody's employed market-determined discount rates (5.47 percent for Connecticut) instead of the state-reported assumed rates of return (8.5 percent for Connecticut's largest pension plan).[36]

The report's authors found that adjusted net pension liabilities varied dramatically from state to state, from 6.8 percent (Nebraska) to 241 percent (Illinois) of governmental revenues in fiscal year 2011.[36]

The adjusted net pension liability for Connecticut's two largest pension systems (TRS and SERS) in fiscal year 2011 was ranked the seventh highest in the nation.[36] The following table presents key state-specific findings from the Moody's report, as well as the state's national rank with respect to each indicator.

Adjusted net pension liabilities (ANPL) relative to key economic indicators - Connecticut
Governmental revenue* Personal income State GDP Per capita
State findings 189.7% 20.1% 18.1% $11,595
National ranking 2nd 3rd 3rd 2nd
*Moody's uses governmental revenues as reported in each state's consolidated annual financial reports; this includes not only state-generated revenue, but federal funds, as well.[36]

Pension fund management fees

See also: Public pension fund management fees

In July 2013, the Maryland Public Policy Institute (MPPI) and the Maryland Tax Education Foundation released a report detailing the fees paid for the management of state pension systems. According to MPPI, the 10 state pension funds that paid the most in management fees relative to net assets experienced lower returns over a five-year period than the 10 state pension funds that paid the least in management fees. For example, in fiscal year 2012 South Carolina's pension system paid approximately $296.1 million in total management fees (1.31 percent of total net assets at the beginning of the fiscal year) and its five-year rate of return was 1.46 percent. By contrast, Alabama's pension system paid roughly $13.3 million in management fees (0.05 percent of total net assets) and its five-year rate of return was 7.53 percent.[37]

The table below presents the information collected by MPPI for Connecticut and surrounding states. For each state's pension system, total net assets are listed (both for the beginning and end of the fiscal year in question), as well as the total amount paid in management fees. In addition, the rates of return for the pension systems are presented. Connecticut held the average total net assets in relation to its neighboring states.

Public pension fund management fees, 2011-2012
State Fiscal year Total net assets at the beginning of the year Total net assets at the end of the year Total management fees Management fees as a percentage of total net assets at the beginning of the year Five-year rate of return for the pension fund
Connecticut 2012 $25,086,280,000 $23,873,812,000 $87,099,000 0.35% 1.27%
Maine 2012 $11,051,692,821 $10,766,866,860 $24,300,000 0.22% 1.50%
Massachusetts 2012 $50,245,766,000 $48,867,807,000 $252,070,837 0.50% 0.11%
New Hampshire 2012 $5,891,179,000 $5,774,343,000 $22,908,000 0.39% 1.80%
Rhode Island1
1"Three states— Hawaii, Nevada and Rhode Island—were excluded because they hadn’t published CAFRs for fiscal years ending December 31, 2011 or later. West Virginia was excluded because its June 30, 2012 CAFR lacked sufficient disclosure."[37]
Source: Maryland Public Policy Institute, "Wall Street Fees, Investment Returns, Maryland 49 Other State Pension Funds," July 1, 2013


Enacted reforms


In January 2012, Governor Dannel Malloy revealed his proposal to improve the funding level of Connecticut's pension system.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag Critics questioned the state's ability to make those payments.[38]

Relevant litigation

In 2004 Connecticut's then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sued Forstmann Little & Co. for losing $125 million in state pension funds by making investments that were not consistent with its contract with the state. On July 1, 2004, a Connecticut Superior jury found that the investment firm repeatedly breached its contract with the state, violated fiduciary duty and acted with gross negligence, in bad faith or with willful misconduct. The jury did not award monetary damages. On Sept. 20, 2004 FL&C agreed to pay the Connecticut Pension Fund $15 million to resolve all issue in the lawsuit and agreed to return to the pension fund $1.2 million that was withheld from the state to cover legal expenses stemming from the suit.[39]

Local public pensions

See also: Local government public pensions

According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has 55 locally-administered pension systems.[40]


See also: Public pension disclosure and Governmental Accounting Standards Board

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Connecticut + public + pensions"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Connecticut Public Pensions News Feed

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See also

Additional reading

External links


  1. Figures below are compiled by adding up all state pension plans
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 These figures do not include data from the Probate Judges and Employees Retirement System, as 2010 numbers could not be located in the system's actuarial valuation reports.
  3. This figure is derived by calculating the percent difference between the current year's funding level and the system's percent funded from the prior year.
  4. Rank is relative to the 50 state pension programs. "1" refers to the healthiest pension plan while "50" would be the least well-funded plan.
  5. State of Connecticut, "2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report," accessed November 1, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pew Center on the States "Widening Gap Update: Connecticut," June 18, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Connecticut State Employees Retirement System, "Report of the Actuary on the Valuation, Prepared as of June 30, 2012," accessed November 1, 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Connecticut Teachers' Retirement System, "Actuarial Valuation as of June 30, 2012," accessed November 1, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Connecticut Judges, Family Support Magistrates, and Compensation Commissioners Retirement System, "Report of the Actuary on the Valuation, Prepared as of June 30, 2012," accessed November 1, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Connecticut Municipal Employees' Retirement System, "Report on the Biennial Valuation of the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System, Prepared as of July 1, 2012," accessed November 1, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Connecticut Probate Judges and Employees Retirement System, "Report of the Actuary on the Valuation, Prepared as of December 31, 2011
  12. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, "Pensions Glossary," accessed November 27, 2013
  13. Cavanaugh MacDonald Consulting. accessed October 17, 2013
  14. United States Government Accountability Office Report to the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate, "State and Local Government Retiree Benefits: Current Status of Benefit Structures, Protections, and Fiscal Outlook for Funding Future Costs," September 2007. accessed October 23, 2013
  15. American Academy of Actuaries, "Issue Brief: The 80% Pension Funding Standard Myth," July 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
  16. Governing Magazine, " Is There a Plot Against Pensions?" October 14, 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 State Budget Solutions, "Promises Made, Promises Broken - The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers," accessed September 20, 2013
  18. 18.0 18.1 Analysis only available for system totals and not individual funds.
  19. Reuters, "Little-known U.S. board stokes hot pension debate," July 10, 2012
  20. State Budget Solutions, "GASB's ineffective public pension reporting standards set to take effect," June 5, 2013
  21. Reuters, Connecticut's pension fund assets slip 0.9 pct in FY 12, Aug. 8, 2012
  22. Reuters, "Connecticut's pension fund assets slip 0.9 percent in FY 12," August 8, 2012
  23. "The Widening Gap Update,” Pew Center on the States, accessed October 17, 2013
  24. The New York Times "Public Pensions Faulted for Bets on Rosy Returns," May 27, 2012
  25. Benefits Magazine "Public Pension Funding 101: Key Terms and Concepts," April 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  26. Crain's Chicago Business "State teachers pension board lowers expected rate of return," September 21, 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  27. Huffington Post "California Pension Funds Expect Lower Investment Return," March 14, 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
  28. 28.0 28.1 Governing "Expert: Governments Are Masking Their Pension Liabilities ," October 25, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  29. The Washington Post "Kansas’s pension funding gap just grew by $1 billion," September 6, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  30. Topeka Capital-Journal "KPERS' unfunded liability rises to $10.2B," September 4, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  31. Wall Street Journal "Pensions Wrestle With Return Rates," October 10, 2011. accessed October 23, 2013
  32. The Courant "Promising Too Much On Public Pensions," August 10, 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
  33. Business Wire "NCPERS 2013 Survey: Public Pension Plans Report Increasing Confidence, Lower Costs, Growing Returns," October 22, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  34. National Association of State Retirement Administrators "Issue Brief: Public Pension Plan Investment Return Assumptions," October 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  35. State Budget Solutions, "Promises Made, Promises Broken - The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers," accessed September 20, 2013
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 Moody's Investor Service, "Adjusted Pension Liability Medians for US States," June 27, 2013
  37. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named report
  38. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named mirror
  39. Forstmann Little Agrees to $15 Million Settlement of Lawsuit Filed by Connecticut Pension Fund, Sept. 20, 2004
  40. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named census