Board suggests $4M for Blair County pension

Blair’s actuarial firm recommended $6.39M contribution toward fund in 2018

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Blair County Retirement Board agreed Thursday to recommend the county allocate a minimum of $4 million toward its pension fund in 2018.

While the county was advised by CBIZ — the county’s actuarial firm –that its 2018 contribution to the underfunded pension fund should be $6.39 million in 2018, retirement board members backed away from that amount.

“Even $4 million is an additional burden on the taxpayers,” county Controller A.C. Stickel said. “But it helps us protect the solvency of the fund.”

The county received a report in September advising that higher annual contributions, over time, will help keep the pension plan solvent from CBIZ and avoid a time when the fund doesn’t have enough money to cover its obligations. It’s a recommendation the board has heard in recent years to address the underfunded pension plan, a condition blamed on prior commissioners who made minimal or no contributions to the plan during difficult budget-balancing years.

While meeting Thursday, Stickel provided retirement board members with a report showing the county is on track to meet a promised $4 million contribution to the plan by the end of December.

But $2 million of that $4 million is coming from the last portion of proceeds earmarked after the sale of Valley View Home.

If the county intends to contribute $4 million to the pension fund in 2018, it’s likely that the entire amount will have to be covered with revenue from the county’s general fund real estate tax millage.

Commissioner Bruce Erb, who chairs the retirement board, and Commissioner Ted Beam Jr., a member of the retirement board, offered their support Thursday for the $4 million recommendation.

“We don’t want to go backwards,” Beam said.

To contribute less than $4 million in 2018 would be taking a step backward, county Treasurer Jim Carothers said.

Erb asked the retirement board to make the recommendation Thursday because next year’s budget is being developed. That plan typically is introduced in mid-November for commissioners’ consideration.

For the 2017 budget, the first year when new property values generated by the county’s reassessment project were used to calculate real estate taxes, commissioners imposed a 10 percent increase in the general fund millage rate. The bulk of the new revenue, commissioners agreed, would be allocated toward the county’s pension fund and increase in hospitalization.

For the 2016 budget, commissioners raised taxes by 2.58 mills to generate new revenue for expenses that would otherwise be covered by reserve funds. The county’s 2015 budget was balanced with the use of reserve funds and no tax increase.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.