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*[[New York state budget]]
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*[[Ten cities facing the worst of the pension crisis]]
*[[Ten cities facing the worst of the pension crisis]]

Revision as of 21:43, 16 September 2013

New York public pensions
Pension system
Number of pension systems 3
State pension systems: State & Local Employees' Retirement System
Police and Fire Retirement System
Teachers' Retirement System
System type: Pension
Local pensions
Number of local pension systems 8
Pension health
Estimated liabilities:* $254.08 billion
Percent funded: 92.7%
Unfunded liabilities: 18.6 billion
State employees
Number of state public employees: 279,005
Total pension fund members (active and inactive): 1,077,935
Beneficiaries receiving payments: 264,063
State Information

New York public pensions include the pension systems New York State & Local Employees' Retirement System, the Police and Fire Retirement System, and the Teachers' Retirement System.

New York had 279,005 total public employees as of 2011.[1] In Fiscal Year 2010, the state has a total of 813,872 active pension fund members, with 264,063 receiving periodic benefit payments. [2][3]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has 8 locally-administered pension systems.[4]

Pension Plans

Plan Current Value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities Active Members Average Pension
State Employees' Retirement System[2] $126.40 billion 90.2% $13.69 billion 505,575 $29,636
State Police and Fire Retirement System[2] $22.21 billion 91.9% $1.96 billion 31,024 $62,535
Teachers' Retirement System[3] $86.89 billion 96.7% $2.93 billion 277,273 $45,684

New York State Employees' Retirement System

In the Employees' Retirement System (ERS), employees are required to contribute 3% of their salary.[5] Under state law, the Common Retirement Fund, which includes both the Employees Retirement System and Police and Fire Retirement System, may invest up to 70 percent of its assets in equities.Ten percent of the CRF’s total investments can be in international equities; 5 percent in real estate; and up to 25 percent in any investment that meets prudent investor standards. The CRF’s investments in private equity, real estate in excess of 5 percent, international equities in excess of 10 percent, and absolute return strategies (hedge funds) are authorized for the fund as long as they meet the prudent investor standard. The fund paid out $7.66 billion in benefits in fiscal year 2009-10.[6] Employer Contribution Rates:

  • FY 2012 average contribution rates is 16.3 percent of payroll
  • Employers contributed roughly $2.34 billion to the Retirement System in FY 2010, while benefits paid exceeded $7.66 billion
  • Employees contributed $284.3 million in FY 2010. State and local government employees are required to contribute 3 percent of gross earnings to the Retirement System for 10 years
  • Employer and employee contributions have helped the Fund remain fully funded.

New York State Police and Fire Retirement System

FY 2012 average contribution rate is 21.6 percent of payroll.

New York State Teacher Retirement System

Teachers participate in the New York State Teachers Retirement System. Membership in this System is mandatory and automatic for all full-time teachers, teaching assistants, guidance counselors and administrators employed in (1) New York State public schools (excluding New York City), BOCES or eligible charter schools that opted to participate as an employer in NYSTRS. Membership for teachers employed less than full time is optional. Teachers employed by a New York State community college or SUNY may elect membership in NYSTRS, the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System or an Optional Retirement Plan. The employer contribution rate for the Teacher Retirement System is 8.62 percent. The Teacher Retirement System is divided into five different tiers based upon date of membership with different benefit calculations and eligibility requirements.

  • Tier 1: Membership prior to 7/1/73
  • Tier 2: Membership 7/1/73 — 7/26/76
  • Tier 3: Membership 7/27/76 — 8/31/83
  • Tier 4: Membership between 9/1/83 and 12/31/09
  • Tier 5: Membership on or after 1/1/2010

All retirees will receive an automatic, annual cost-of-living adjustment when they meet the eligibility requirements. The annual adjustment, applied to the first $18,000 of the pension, will be a minimum of 1 percent and a maximum of 3 percent based on 50 percent of the March-to-March increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Pension reforms

Lawmakers approved a measure cutting the retirement benefits for future public employees in NYC and across the state in March 2012, reflecting a blow to the state’s public-employee unions.

The pension changes were part of a policy package approved overnight that resolved several of the thorniest issues facing lawmakers this year, including reconfiguration of the legislative districts, legalization of casino gambling, and the creation of a criminal DNA database.

In the package, lawmakers agreed to offer new state workers who earn $75,000 or more and are non-unionized the choice to choose a defined contribution plan (similar to a 401k) instead of the traditional pension. The measure will save more than $80 billion for the state and local governments in the next 30 years by reducing benefits to new workers. It will also require most workers to increase the portion of their salaries that they contribute to the pension system from the current 3 percent to as much as 6 percent for the highest earners.[7]

The state's rapidly growing pensions costs are one of the most expensive mandates for local governments. In 2002, pension payment from local governments was $1.4 billion and have grown to $12.2 billion in 2012, an increase of over 650%. The pension reform plan passed by the Senate and Assembly recognizes the unsustainability of the current system and takes unprecedented steps to control growth. A study of savings for specific New York state and local governments, including New York City:

Government 5 Year Savings 10 Year Savings 30 Year Savings
Albany County $15,211,569 $67,778,940 $1,100,410,014
Allegany County $1,897,597 $8,275,736 $123,367,305
Broome County $8,886,763 $8,275,736 $578,485,784
Cattaraugus County $4,340,833 $18,870,358 $281,049,221
Cayuga County $3,209,417 $14,004,700 $208,802,515
Chautauqua County $6,239,100 $27,286,852 $407,089,557
Chemung County $3,909,646 $17,022,782 $253,644,415
Chenango County $2,325,290 $10,077,262 $149,957,169
Clinton County $3,890,903 $16,916,588 $251,959,409
Columbia County $2,658,719 $11,644,346 $173,788,819
Cortland County $1,924,811 $8,408,432 $125,403,830
Delaware County $2,070,328 $9,042,139 $134,846,742
Duchess County $14,231,625 $61,918,418 $922,407,229
Erie County $41,308,304 $180,756,345 $2,697,072,881
Essex County $1,662,690 7,287,506 $108,768,748
Franklin County $2,269,970 $9,857,589 $146,772,494
Fulton County $2,527,417 $11,018,669 $164,240,577
Genesee County $3,032,530 $13,200,211 $196,672,094
Greene County $2,096,799 $9,120,269 $135,855,853
Hamilton County $389,523 $1,718,474 $25,699,622
Herkimer County $2,653,666 $11,522,459 $171,555,471
Jefferson County $5,274,055 $23,057,618 $343,958,376
Lewis County $1,458,801 $6,468,132 $96,863,370
Livingston County $2,483,084 $10,849,563 $161,820,770
Madison County $2,770,733 $12,094,937 $180,347,698
Monroe County $33,065,375 $143,990,347 $2,145,590,618
Montgomery County $1,905,823 $8,287,170 $123,435,830
Nassau County $100,488,040 $438,215,138 $6,532,396,095
Niagara County $9,271,916 $40,582,198 $605,571,319
Oneida County $9,758,222 $42,423,232 $631,849,010
Onodaga County $22,684,639 $98,887,580 $1,473,944,881
Ontario County $5,019,535 $21,888,746 $326,288,408
Orange County $20,461,117 $88,813,258 $1,322,193,167
Orleans County $2,143,018 $9,252,203 $137,532,241
Oswego County $5,888,811 $25,536,563 $380,069,543
Otsego County $2,681,721 $11,654,475 $173,563,748
Putnam County $5,765,088 $24,979,656 $371,695,410
Rensselaer County $7,448,894 $32,536,696 $485,240,027
Rockland County $19,096,637 $83,298,828 $1,241,808,169
Saratoga County $8,000,164 $34,657,832 $515,679,829
Schenectady County $6,976,531 $30,522,004 $455,395,929
Schoharie County $2,294,792 $10,187,019 $152,605,586
Schuyler County $730,072 $3,223,983 $48,227,118
Seneca County $1,244,143 $5,431,428 $80,989,872
St. Lawrence County $4,407,984 $19,202,874 $286,171,455
Steuben County $4,279,298 $18,607,567 $277,155,020
Suffolk County $97,702,082 $424,522,100 $6,321,838,599
Sullivan County $4,169,193 $18,187,635 $271,146,274
Tioga County $1,356,216 $5,921,255 $88,296,199
Tompkins County $4,012,330 $17,581,577 $262,437,145
Ulster County $9,063,570 $39,372,873 $586,289,972
Warren County $3,105,096 $13,575,734 $202,516,268
Washington County $3,078,422 $13,309,617 $197,924,671
Wayne County $4,583,684 $19,846,094 $295,246,974
Westchester County $75,475,257 $330,486,136 $4,929,878,230
Wyoming County $1,616,979 $7,128,167 $106,578,316
Yates County $813,414 $3,575,315 $53,413,589
Regional Entities and Public Authorities $111,594,484 $510,462,019 $7,708,667,891
New York City $300,000,000 $1,800,000,000 $21,000,000,000
New York State $191,341,088 $874,488,150 $13,202,952,279
Grand Total $1,220,247,811 $5,877,629,031 $82,135,447,911


In May 2011 the governor proposed pension reforms, including raising the minimum retirement age to 65, ending early retirement and requiring higher contributions from employees. The changes would be effective only for new employees hired after the law is passed. The plan would save $93 billion over 30 years. The Civil Service Employees Association opposed the changes. Once formally introduced, the changes will face serious debate in the legislature.[9]

Following his election Comptroller Tom DiNapoli set out to implement various reforms for the state's pension systems. According to the comptroller's Web site, some of those reforms include

  • Banned the involvement of placement agents, paid intermediaries and registered lobbyists in investments with the Fund. The ban includes entities compensated on a flat fee, a contingent fee or any other basis
  • Created a Pension Fund Task Force to review the practices and policies of the Fund chaired by Shannon O’Brien, the former Massachusetts Treasurer
  • Expanded internal and external vetting, review and approval of all investment decisions
  • Formed a special commission, headed by former NYC-Mayor Ed Koch and Wall Street guru Frank Zarb, to review operations of the Office of the State Comptroller
  • Drafting legislation to codify the pension fund reforms to eliminate the potential for abuse in the future
  • Releases monthly reporting on investment transactions completed by the Fund since February 2007, including placement agent and intermediary information where applicable
  • Publicly announces pension fund performance quarterly instead of annually
  • Initiated a comprehensive review of all Fund external consultants and the development of a more comprehensive pool of external consultants.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that if pensions were not reformed, local governments in New York could end up bankrupt. The governor, in his budget proposal, wanted a new benefit tier that offers a reduced public pension or a 401k style plan. The governor said his plan would save $113 billion dollars in future decades. [10]

In June of 2011 Cuomo introduced pension reform legislation that would impose a new Tier VI for future employees and save taxpayers $93 billion over the next 30 years, a figure that does not include New York City. The new pension tier will increase the retirement age for new employees from 62 to 65, increase employee pension contributions and end so-called pension padding where employees accumulate substantial amounts of overtime in their final years of service to increase their pension. Other provisions include: [11]

  • Ending early retirement
  • Requiring employees to contribute six percent of their salary for the duration of their career
  • Providing a 1.67 percent annual pension multiplier
  • Vesting after 12 years instead of 10 years
  • Excluding overtime from final average salary
  • Using a five year final average salary calculation with an 8 percent anti-spiking cap
  • Excluding wages above the Governor's salary of $179,000 from the final average salary calculation
  • Eliminating lump sum payouts for unused vacation leave from the final average salary calculation
  • Prohibiting the use of unused sick leave for additional service credit at retirement

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli criticized the plan. DiNapoli said 401(k)-style defined-contribution plans are more expensive to deliver and could have a destabilizing effect on New York's economy. He also attacked the "myth" of bloated pensions, saying that "less than one-half of 1 percent of our 385,000 retirees receive pensions exceeding $100,000." [12]

A poll issue by the Rochester Daily Journal indicates that 90 percent of their readers back Cuomo's plan. [12]

Pension lawsuits

Seven New York state unions filed federal lawsuits on Wednesday, challenging the Cuomo administration’s increase in the amount retirees must contribute toward their healthcare. The unions said increases were unconstitutional because the state has no authority to unilaterally raise retirees’ healthcare costs. The changes enacted this year by the Cuomo administration increased healthcare contributions to 12 percent from 10 percent for individual coverage and to 27 percent from 25 percent for family coverage. [13]

Borrowing from pension funds

Local governments throughout New York are borrowing from the $140 billion pension fund to pay their pension bills. State and local governments are borrowing $750 million in 2012 to finance their contributions to the state pension system, and are likely to borrow at least $1 billion more over 2013. Supporters argue that the borrowing plan makes it possible for governments in New York to “smooth” their annual pension contributions to get through this prolonged period of market volatility. Critics say it is a budgetary sleight-of-hand that simply kicks pension costs down the road. [14]

The borrowing mechanism, approved in 2010 under former Gov. David A. Paterson, was backed by public sector unions and by the state comptroller’s office, which oversees the pension fund. According to the NY Times, the comptroller prefers to call the borrowing a "form of amortization," or paying a debt gradually, with interest. The public employers that borrow from the pension system essentially contribute less than they owe in a given year, and agree to repay the difference, with interest, over a decade. Contributions to the pension system, which covers more than one million members, retirees and beneficiaries, are due annually from the state and municipal governments. As they struggle to pay their obligations under the current system, municipalities are borrowing $200 million this year, up from $45 million last year, the first year the borrowing plan was available, according to the state comptroller’s office. [14]

Local governments are not the only borrowers, the state is borrowing too. In 2012 the state will borrow $575 million and $782 million in the next, under a budget proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. [14]


In New York, it was revealed that for 14 cases the city continue to pay pensions to deceased public employees, which totaled to more than $450,000 in pension fraud.[15]


In December 2009, New York lawmakers increased the minimum retirement age from 55 to 62 for new employees and also increased the minimum years of service required to draw a pension from five years to 10.[16]

Under a regular plan in ERS, an employee may retire at age 55 with a minimum of 5 years of service. Tier 1 members may retire at age 55 with no benefit reduction. Tier 2, 3 or 4 members with less than 30 years of service credit may retire but their benefit will be reduced by a percentage for each year of retirement prior to age 62.[17]

New York State Teachers' Retirement System raised the minimum retirement age from 55 to 57, increased from 3% to 3.5% the employee contribution rate of annual wages.[16] It also increased the 2 percent multiplier threshold for pension calculations from 20 to 25 years.[16]

Rate of return

Pension Hotspots Report
PensionHotspot final.png

New York presumes a 8 percent return rate on its pension investments.[16]

2012 Quarterly Returns

The New York pension fund for state and local government employees reported a negative 1 percent return on investment in its most recent quarter with the overall fund value dropping to $146.5 billion, down from an estimated $150.3 billion value in March. The fund supports more than 400,000 retirees and has approximately 654,000 current members. The average employer contribution rate is now almost 19 percent of salary for most public workers and nearly 26 percent for police and firefighters. [18]

Pension litigation

In March 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed a lawsuit filed by both Ohio and New York against British Petroleum. The lawsuit, In re BP, PLC Securities Litigation, challenged whether British Petroleum (“BP”) and its executives made fraudulent statements about the company’s safety measures and about the extent of the Gulf of Mexico spill, leading to losses in the states’ retirement systems between $181 -$229.4 million in aggregate BP stock. According to the lawsuit:

  • Ohio Public Employees Retirement System loss: $71.3 billion
  • New York State Common Retirement Fund loss: $132.6 billion
  • Ohio State Teachers Retirement System loss: $60.9 billion
  • Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund loss: $10.1 billion
  • Ohio School Employees Retirement System loss: $9.6 billion

Although the case was dismissed, the judge left open open the possibility that the plaintiffs may refile and adequately allege that the defendants made misrepresentations while acting in a fiduciary capacity and failed to properly monitor other fiduciaries.

In 1993, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that lawmakers violated the state constitution by trying to change the way government pension fund contributions were calculated. The new method was less expensive for the state, but would damage the pension fund’s fundamental soundness.

Local public pensions

Main article: Local government public pensions

According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has 8 locally-administered pension systems.[4]


Main articles: Public pension disclosure and Governmental Accounting Standards Board

Data availability

The Office of the Comptroller, which oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, publishes annual audits and actuarial assumptions on its website. [19]

Names of pension recipients are not available to the general public, nor are amounts disbursed to recipients.

Fund performance data

Pension fund investment performance data is not posted on the website, but is included in the CAFR. [20]

Rate of return

The assumed rate of return for pension investments is not posted on the site.

Unfunded liabilities

Unfunded liabilities are not disclosed on the website, but the information can be found on Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports which are posted on the site. [20]


In 2010 Hank Morris, a central player in a pay-to-play scheme involving the New York State pension fund, pleaded guilty to violating the Martin Act and agreed to return $19 million to the fund. In admitting his wrongdoing in court, Morris said he worked with Alan G. Hevesi, the former state comptroller, and David Loglisci, the fund’s chief investment officer, to steer pension investments to certain firms, which would earn him fees. [21]

In 2011 New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo directed the state Insurance Department to issue permanent regulations banning placement agents, lobbyists and elected officials from any business with the $140.6 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. [22]

The office of the state comptroller oversees the pension funds. Annual audits are performed by KPMG, an independent auditing firm.

See also

External links


  1. 2011 Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll, Accessed September 16, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 New York State and Local Retirement System 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Accessed September 16, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 New York State Teachers' Retirement System 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Accessed September 16, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Public Employee Retirement Systems State- and Locally-Administered Pensions Summary Report: 2010", United States Census Bureau, April 30, 2012
  5. ERS Membership Form
  6. Snapshot
  7. New York Times, New York Lawmakers Vote to Limit Public Pensions, March 14, 2012
  8. Major Pension Reform
  9., Cuomo's Proposed Pension Reform Met With Union Backlash, May 16, 2011
  10. WAMC, NY Governor: Lack of Pension Reform Could "Bankrupt" Local Governments, Feb. 28, 2012
  11. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Governor Cuomo Introduces Pension Reform Legislation, June 8, 2011
  12. 12.0 12.1 Rochester Business Journal, Nearly all back N.Y. public pension system reform, March 2, 2012
  13., NY Unions File Lawsuit Over Retiree Healthcare Increase, Dec. 30, 2011
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 New York Times, To Pay New York Pension Fund, Cities Borrow From It First, Feb. 27, 2012
  15. New York Daily News, Fraud suspected as dead city retirees continue to collect pension checks, Sept. 27, 2010
  16. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named trillion
  17. Frequently Asked Questions
  18. Newsday, NY pension fund reports 1% drop, Comptroller says, Aug. 20, 2012
  19. Audits and Actuarial Assumptions
  20. 20.0 20.1 2011 CAFR
  21. NY Times, Adviser Pleads Guilty in Pay-to-Play Pension Scheme, Nov. 22, 2010
  22. Pensions and Investments, ‘Pay to play' ban with New York plan made permanent, April 27, 2011