The numbers are in and state officials said they’re concerning. Missouri’s state auditor released survey results highlighting the financial condition of public employee pension plans. State officials said more than a dozen of Missouri’s pension plans are highly problematic.
The Missouri State Auditor’s survey gauges the financial health of 89 pension plans throughout the state. When compared to the national average, Missouri fares pretty well, about 5 percent higher according to the one indicator, and what the State Auditor, Tom Schweich, considers within the safe range. “I’m not going to give Missouri’s pensions a clean bill of health at all. But what I will say is most of them are in a range where they can correct the problems they have with out too much stress on the system,” said Schweich.
Schweich points out 15 public pension plans in the state that he considers are in the worst trouble, calling them highly problematic. Columbia firemen’s retirement and Columbia police retirement made that list. He said all of the indicators they use to gauge the financial health of a pension plan are in the red for these two. Schweich points to the funded ratio, a percentage that shows a pension’s solvency. He considers a funded ratio below 70percent to be problematic. The pensions for Columbia police and firefighters are sitting at 54percent. “It’s something that should be of concern, obviously, to the people who are getting the benefits. But the other citizens in that community need to be concerned too because you see it puts stress on an entire community when pensions can’t be paid,” said Schweich.
Schweich said the 2008-2009 recession is the main reason many of these plans are having trouble. He said the department will pick a handful of pensions to audit in the upcoming year.