Blair ranked last in pension funding

Report: County’s plan only 35.27% funded

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A report comparing the funding of county pension plans has ranked Blair County at the bottom, Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb said Tuesday.

In a 2017 report on Pennsylvania County Pension Plans prepared by Marquette Associates, the investment advisory company that works with the county’s retirement board, Blair County’s plan was identified at 35.27 percent funded.

That means the county’s pension plan holds $35.27 in assets for every $100 in plan liabilities, Erb explained during the weekly commissioners meeting.

Of 51 additional county pension plans identified in the report, all ranked as better funded than Blair’s.

“Not only do we have the worst funded county plan in Pennsylvania, but the next worse county is over 70 percent funded or two times better funded than we are,” Erb said.

A copy of the report did not identify that county nor offer information about the pension fund status of 15 additional counties, which did not provide information for the report.

After referencing the Marquette Associates report, Erb said he intends to ask the county’s retirement board in December to make pension plan benefit changes affecting nonunion employees hired after Jan. 1.

If approved, the changes won’t affect current employees or employees hired through Dec. 31.

But for county employees hired after Jan. 1 to fill nonunion jobs, the proposed changes will make a difference by reducing future pension payments and revising the calculation used at the time of retirement to determine a monthly pension.

The retirement board tried earlier this year to introduce those changes for all retiring employees. But the county abandoned them on the advice of legal counsel, pursued after retiring employees protested and turned to Hollidaysburg attorney William Haberstroh, who started exploring legal action.

Haberstroh suggested that the county may have violated its collective bargaining agreements by failing to negotiate the change with the unions representing its employees.

Erb said Tuesday he is limiting his recommended changes, at this time, to future nonunion employees.

“My hope is that our union partners will recognize the need to take these steps to protect the plan benefits of all past, current and future employees and negotiate with us on the two changes for their new member employees that will yield future savings for the pension plan,” Erb said. “We must join together to do this to stabilize the fund and guarantee its long-term viability for our employees.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.