It's frightening that it's taken so long for people in charge of a massive state pension agency to figure out that awarding bonuses while the fund is losing money doesn't compute.
Yet, that's what happened in the last fiscal year with the Public School Employees' Retirement System.
The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reports that while the pension fund saw its investments lose 2.8 percent of their value in the 2007-08 fiscal year - a net loss of $1.8 billion - more than $854,000 in bonuses were awarded to the fund's investment staff.
The bonuses ranged from $9,720 to $106,223, which averages out more than $40,000, the newspaper reports.
PSERS officials said that they were under contractual obligations to award the bonuses by board policy and said that while the fund has lost money, the percentage was much less than what similar accounts lost nationally.
So not performing as badly as one's peers is a reason to justify bonuses that average more than many Blair County residents earn in a year?
If that's not bad enough, here's a little salt for that wound: On Dec. 12, PSERS said that school districts and the state - really, the taxpayers - should plan to make much larger contributions to fund the pension plan starting in 2012 because of recent losses, The Associated Press reports.
Next year, employers will contribute about 5 percent of the affected payroll to the pension funds. The latest projection is that in 2012, the amount will be 16 percent. That's a huge jump, and it seems unlikely many school districts will be able to afford such a financial hit without passing it on to property owners.
That's no bonus for us.
In a glimmer of hope, the PSERS board finally has decided to end the incentive payments at the end of December, but that still means the investment staff can get bonuses for its work over the last six months.
Given that PSERS says its investments lost 11 percent in value between July and September, and the markets have fallen in the ensuring further in the last three months, it remains to be seen how bad the losses for the last six months will be.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 10,850.66 on Sept. 30. It finished the week Friday at ***********. It will be interesting to see what bonuses are awarded based upon results for the last six months.
If any are, Pennsylvania pharmacies might need to stock up on blood-pressure medicine. Overburdened taxpayers will need it.