California’s Financial Woes

Teachers pension fund is $43 billion short
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System says that as of June 30, 2009, it could meet only an estimated 77% of its future pension obligations — far less than the 100% recommended by actuaries
By Marc Lifsher
January 29, 2010

Reporting from Sacramento – Another pension alarm bell is ringing in Sacramento, this time at the teachers retirement system, where the nation’s second-largest public pension fund is reporting a $43-billion shortfall.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System said that as of June 30, 2009, it could meet only an estimated 77% of its future pension obligations — far less than the 100% recommended by actuaries.

Known as CalSTRS, the fund took a big hit during the 2008-09 fiscal year, losing a quarter of its value. Since then, its investment returns have improved, but the growth isn’t strong enough to keep up with a widening funding gap.

What’s worse, CalSTRS Chief Executive Jack Ehnes said in a report to be presented to the board Feb. 5, the fund could be broke in 35 years — the length of a typical teaching career.

To avoid that calamity, Ehnes wants the state Legislature to raise employer pension contributions paid by the state and, indirectly, California’s 1,043 school districts in the next few years.

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