- Associated Press - Saturday, July 19, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The state’s pension system has been looking healthier thanks in part to investment gains and legislative changes that boosted employer and employee contributions.

Patrice Beckham, an actuary with the Cavanaugh Macdonald consulting firm, told the Kansas Public Employees Retirements System’s Board of Trustees that the state’s pension system has reached an important benchmark of 60 percent funded at the end of 2013, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Friday (https://bit.ly/1nG5CYm ). Beckham said the KPERS remains on track to be fully funded by 2033.

KPERS was last above 60 percent funded, which is the threshold Standard & Poor’s uses to differentiate between “below average” and “weak” plans, in 2010. Beckham also said the pension system’s projected debt dropped by almost $500 million in 2013, from about $10.3 billion to about $9.8 billion.

The state’s pension system improved in part because of a 17 percent investment return last year.

Gov. Sam Brownback said in a prepared statement Friday that he has prioritized “restoring the health of our KPERS.”

“We are now beginning to see the results of our hard work directly benefiting teachers through a pension system they can rely on,” his statement said.

Beckham cautioned that investment markets are unpredictable, but said the system’s long-term prospects look better now than they have in decades, thanks in part to legislative changes that have nearly all the divisions within KPERS - schools, judges and police and fire - paying contributions at or near the rate recommended by actuaries.

“I think it’s fair to say that KPERS has turned the corner,” said Doug Mays, the chairman of the KPERS board and a former Kansas House speaker.

Terry Matlack, vice chairman of the board of trustees, called reaching 60 percent with the state on track for 100 percent by 2033 “good progress.”

“It’s pretty good news, directionally, given that we’re still 40 percent underwater,” Matlack said.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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