Pension Transparency: Alaska

2015 Pensions Policy

Goal

The state should disclose all financial and other data necessary for policymakers, school districts and the general public to have a clear and accurate depiction of the current standing and future health of the system. State teacher retirement systems als

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Pension Transparency: Alaska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AK-Pension-Transparency-74

Analysis of Alaska's policies

Teachers, policymakers and taxpayers deserve accurate and reliable information about the costs and benefits of the public pension systems they support.

Just as teachers can easily obtain their salary schedules, they should have access to information about pensions so that they can make informed decisions about their career and retirement futures. Teachers in Alaska enroll in a defined contribution plan and receive statements about their retirement accounts and market earnings. The account balance is determined in part by market performance and already reflects the value of their contributions and the employer's contributions that are deposited in the account. Thus, the indicators in this goal related to providing information to teachers are not applicable.

Public disclosures on teacher pensions in Alaska are more transparent than most states. Alaska reports projections for future contributions required to fully amortize the system's total unfunded liabilities, and it also reports these projections under a range of assumptions about the rate of return on investments, not just under the system's own assumption. This allows stakeholders in Alaska to appropriately assign risk to the system's obligations and provide clarity about potential unfunded liabilities facing taxpayers.

The Government Accountability Standards Board (GASB) requires public retirement systems to disclose who makes employer contributions, and the proportion of total contributions for which each contributor is responsible. Although all states' pension systems collect this information, Alaska does not make these data readily available.

Alaska, like most states, reports the portion of total pension contributions that is normal cost and the proportion that is amortization cost. However, the state does not report information about whether it has taken on debt in order to pay for current or future retiree benefits (e.g. through pension obligation bonds or other instruments for raising capital). Even if the state has not taken on debt, it should disclose this information to the public as it is an important indicator of the state's overall health and stability.

Citation

Recommendations for Alaska

Report to policymakers and the public data that give a complete representation of the system's financial health.

GASB requires systems to disclose who makes the employer contributions, and Alaska should make this report available on its web site. Alaska should also disclose in its reports whether or not the system has taken debt service to pay for retirement benefits.

State response to our analysis