A Philadelphia Special Pension Commission unanimously approved Tuesday a state-required analysis of the city's pension plan.

The report, which was done by the pension board's actuary Cheiron, compares the city's pension benefits to six other cities and states — Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Pennsylvania. Those plans, Cheiron actuary Ken Kent said, are similar in size to Philadelphia's, which administers retirement benefits for 36,152 retirees and 27,605 active employees.

"Our plan falls in the middle of the pack," said Paula Weiss, executive director of the city tax review board who served on the pension commission as Mayor Nutter's designee.

Some of the executive summary highlights shared at Tuesday's meeting included:

  • "Philadelphia's pension benefits, when compared to other study jurisdictions, start out as among the highest… After 10 years of retirement, Philadelphia's benefits fall behind and drop to fourth on the list as those jurisdictions with [Cost of Living Adjustments] outpace Philadelphia's benefits as a percentage of final salary."

  • "Philadelphia elected officials' benefits are the highest among the measured jurisdictions at an age 65 retirement and after 10 years remains the second highest even as automatic cost of living adjustments in other jurisdictions have an impact."

  • "If looking only at employer cost, Philadelphia is third in the group with regard to cost of pension benefits."

A copy of the full Benefit Plan Study will not be released until some amendments are made and the report is sent to the state, Fran Bielli, executive director of the Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement, said, following Tuesday's vote to approve the plan.

The special commission consists of the members of the city Board of Pensions and Retirement, Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority chairwoman Suzanne Beimiller, the Pennsylvania Public Employees Retirement Commission chairman and Mayor Nutter (or his designee).

The report is the third and last of the bi-annual reports required by the state, following the passage of Act 44 in 2009 that allowed Philadelphia to defer pension payments in 2009 and 2010. The city then was on a strict repayment schedule, which it met, and was to provide a pension plan report to the state legislature every other year starting in 2011 and ending in 2015.

The city's pension fund has suffered greatly in last few decades. It is only 46 percent funded with a $5.7 billion hole, making it the second worst funded plan among large cities, according to a Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority report published in January. Chicago topped the list of worst funded.

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