Official details state takeover of city pensions
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Pittsburgh's pension problems are "very, very serious," the head of the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System said today, as he spoke to City Council about a possible takeover of its pension fund.
James Allen, PMRS secretary since 1984, said the system already administers about 900 municipal pension plans statewide and wasn't looking to seize Pittsburgh's.
However, under a state law passed last year, he said, PMRS must assume administration of the fund if it isn't 50 percent funded by the end of this year.
"We can and will do what has been assigned to us if we must," Mr. Allen said.
Mr. Allen said he'd view the change as a partnership with the city, one that would reduce the role of the city pension boards but that would come with certain benefits, such as nonpartisan bidding requirements for bond work. Under a takeover, he said, the city would still control the types of benefits retirees receive, while PMRS would tell the city how much those benefits would cost in the long run.
Councilman Bill Peduto invited Mr. Allen to Pittsburgh as council wrestles with the best way to address the pension crisis.
Council yesterday took an initial vote against Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's proposal to lease parking garages and meters to private investors, a step he advocated to raise revenue for the pension fund and avert a takeover.
The fund is only 27.5 percent funded now.
Mr. Allen said only five plans under PMRS management now are less than 30 percent funded. He said all are on a track to be 100 percent funded within 30 years, and he pledged to put Pittsburgh's on that track, too.
First Published October 14, 2010 11:02 am