2015 Pensions Policy
The state should ensure that excessive resources are not committed to funding teachers' pension systems.
As of June 30, 2015, the most recent date for which an actuarial valuation is available, New Jersey's pension system for teachers is 51.1 percent funded, a decrease of 5.9 percentage points since NCTQ's last report. Its current pension debt is almost $20,000 per pupil throughout the state. It also has an amortization period of over 30 years. This is due to an accounting method, however, in which New Jersey uses an open 30-year amortization period, meaning that the amortization period is reset to 30 years every year. Thus, the unfunded liability is never fully amortized. Under a closed amortization method, if the plan earns its assumed rate of return and makes its full actuarially determined contribution payments, it would take the state over 30 years to pay off its unfunded liabilities. The state will not employ a closed amortization schedule until June 30, 2019. Neither the state's funding ratio nor its amortization period meets conventional standards, and the state's system is not financially sustainable according to actuarial benchmarks.
New Jersey, however, does not commit excessive resources toward its teachers' retirement system. In fact, the employer and state contributions are excessively low because they have not made the actuarially determined contributions. Only 40 percent of the statutory contribution amount was appropriated for FY 2017. Thus, the state is not making the contributions required by its own state law. The mandatory employee contribution rate of 7.06 percent is reasonable. Over the next seven years, the employee rate is set to increase to 7.5 by July 1, 2018, which is still reasonable, but close to excessive in light of the fact that teachers must also contribute 6.2 percent to Social Security.
Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund of New Jersey, Actuarial Valuation Report, Prepared as of July 1, 2015.
Ensure that the pension system is financially sustainable.
The state would be better off if its system was over 95 percent funded and had an amortization period of 30 years or less to allow more protection during financial downturns. The state should also not delay using a 30-year "closed" horizon for amortizing its debt rather than its current 30-year "open" amortization method so that the burden of paying today's promises is not put off onto future generations. Furthermore, New Jersey should at minimum make the contributions required by its own law, though ideally the state would make the actuarially required amount.
New Jersey was helpful in providing information that enhanced this analysis.