Pennsylvania Auditor General Calls For “State-Wide Solution” After Audit Reveals Scranton Pension System Could Be Broke Within 3 Years

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After a two year audit, Pennsylvania’s Auditor General announced today that Scranton’s pension system could become broke in 3 to 5 years—and forcefully indicated that Scranton was symbolic of larger, state-wide pension funding issues.

On Scranton, the Times-Tribune reports:

That dire prediction [3-5 years] could be optimistic, as the pension funds face paying out as much as $10.5 million owed to retired police and firefighters because of the $21 million back pay court award to active members. The auditor general’s office did not evaluate the impact of the award in its audit released Wednesday.

With a funding ratio of just 16.7 percent, the city’s firefighters fund is in the worst condition of any plan in the state, Mr. DePasquale said, and will be unable to pay benefits in less than 2½ years. The non-uniform fund isn’t much better, projected to be insolvent in 2.6 years, while the police fund has less than five years.

The sobering news, presented at a press conference at City Hall, is contained in an audit Mr. DePasquale’s office conducted of the funds’ condition from January 2011 to January 2013.

The Auditor General said the only fiscally sustainable way forward was to reform the state’s pension system. From the Times-Tribune:

He’s called for several measures, including consolidating plans into a statewide system and increasing funding to municipalities with distressed plans.

“We don’t see any way this can be fixed by Scranton alone,” Mr. DePasquale said. “I believe strongly that a statewide solution is needed.”

While Gov. Tom Corbett and the state Legislature debated state pension system reform this summer, it has yet to address the pension crisis some municipalities face. When Mr. Corbett visited Scranton earlier this month and a reporter asked about the city’s pension crisis, he declined to weigh in.

But that reform doesn’t seem likely to come.

Pension360 covered this week Corbett’s futile efforts to kickstart pension reform. Polls have indicated the voters aren’t as engaged by pension issues as they are other issues.