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City of York's pension systems rank among worst-funded in Pa.

Written by Emily Previti/Keystone Crossroads | Mar 24, 2015 8:10 AM
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Photo by Emily Previti/Keystone Crossroads

York Mayor Kim Bracey (L) with state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (R)

(York) -- Nearly half of Pennsylvania's local pension funds are in some level of distress, meaning they're projected to run out of money promised retired workers.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says the situation will worsen in the years ahead, absent legislative action.

The situation is particularly dire in the city of York.

The city's police and fire retirement systems regularly rank among the worst-funded of the Commonwealth's 2,000 or so local pensions.

DePasquale's new audit projects York's about $65 million behind - or about half - of what's been promised to working and retired police and firefighters.

On top of that, the city is $35 million away from repaying money borrowed two decades ago that briefly brought the city's pensions to a fully funded level.

Pennsylvania Municipal League Executive Director Rick Schuettler says changes are needed.

"If you don't stop and create a different structure, even fully funding a pension through a borrowing, can end up being mitigated by the fact additional benefits are promised over time," he says.

York might generate some cash this time around by selling the city ice rink, parking garage or sewer system.

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Photo by Emily Previti/Keystone Crossroads

York City Business Administrator Michael Doweary and Mayor Kim Bracey on a conference call to discuss the city's police and fire pensions.

Mayor Kim Bracey says such one-time fixes are meaningless without state-level reforms.

"Our legislators need to get this, to get on board with making some dire changes here, before it's too late for all  of us and we end up in bankruptcy," she says.

But DePasquale says it's still a short-term solution: necessary to pay the bills, but useless for avoiding future problems.

He says lawmakers need to act quickly, and start by distributing state pension aid more evenly.

 

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