The New York state comptroller's office this week comes out with some numbers of great interest to local governments. Pension rates are one of the reasons many local governments, including the city of Syracuse, say they are in financial peril.
Every year the comptroller's office sets contribution rates for pensions. The numbers are dependent on a variety of things, including investment returns, actuarial evaluations of the government workforce and union agreements. The numbers are crunched and then each locality gets a bill, which it has to pay. When investment returns tanked during the great recession, local governments were forced to pay more of this pension bill. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says that those numbers should be turning around, but won't say if it'll be in this round of pension rates.
"I said from the beginning that it'll take us about five years to work through the market loss, we would see a stability and a decline, and just as we've seen it goes up and it goes down," DiNapoli said. "It's not going to be a dramatic rise and it's not going to be a dramatic fall. It's going to happen in stages."
But DiNapoli remained tight-lipped when discussing the possibility of a changing trend.
"We're going to be announcing very shortly the new round of rates," DiNapoli said. "As I said, we have to work through the market loss of '08 and '09, and I hope that very soon we'll see a decline in the rates. Stay tuned to see when that will happen."
Last week in a hearing before state lawmakers, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said pension costs are among those expenditure lines that the city has no control over, and is one of the reasons why the city's financial picture looks bleak. DiNapoli says pension rates will be released later this week and would impact next year's budget.