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Montco: County's 2014 pension payments as good as Pa.'s

State moving in wrong direction, budget data shows, in county review

Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro says my Sunday column unfairly compares Pennsylvania's 2013 pension contribution rate -- among the lowest and worst in the nation, according to Moody's -- to Montgomery County's. "Pennsylvania's contribution to its state pension funds, which Moody's reported at 52 cents for every dollar needed for 2013, could fall to "about 35, 36 percent" for 2014-15, county finance director Uri Monson tells me, based on available state budget documents and preliminary pension fund estimates.

Montgomery County's own contribution is $3.5 million, vs. an actuarial break-even projection of $10 million -- or 35 percent, about the same as the state's, this year. But Montgomery County has increased its contributions under the current administration, while Pennsylvania this year cut back: "The trajectories are different," Monson says. And since Montgomery County's asset-to-liabilities ratio is significantly higher than the state's, the county is moving in the right direction, while the state is digging deeper into a hole, as the county sees this.

Separately, Monson corrected the asset allocation data I posted for the county. Montgomery says it has by now invested 35% of its assets in U.S. stock index funds -- plus another 25% in international stock index funds, for a total of 55% in stocks. Most of the remaining assets are now in bond funds; relatively little is left in private investments, and none are in hedge funds, which I wrongly included in the category of legacy investments the county is still divesting.