Ensuring the integrity of long term pension funding for the 104 contributory retirement systems for public employees in Massachusetts is a major policy priority for PERAC. The Actuarial Unit is the focal point for these efforts. Under law, the unit determines the annual appropriation for each of the 104 retirement systems.
As part of the appropriation process, the unit performs an actuarial valuation (or reviews a valuation performed by an outside actuary) of each of the 104 retirement systems every few years. The valuation is a "snapshot" picture of how well the plan is funded at that time. The valuation compares the plan’s liabilities (current and future payments to be made upon retirement, death, disability, or termination of employment) with the plan’s assets (both employer and employee contributions credited with investment earnings). The valuation develops a normal cost (which reflects the liability for amounts expected to be earned in the current year) and an actuarial accrued liability (which reflects the liability associated with employee past service). If the actuarial accrued liability exceeds plan assets, an unfunded liability exists.
Based on the results of the valuation, each retirement board establishes a funding schedule (or expected series of payments). The funding schedule is determined so that each year a payment is made to reflect the normal cost as well as a portion of any remaining unfunded liability. The funding schedules are revised at least every two years to take into account updated asset and liability amounts. PERAC is responsible for reviewing and approving funding schedules and assessing the progress each retirement system has made.
In addition, the Unit calculates and verifies the amount of each retirement allowance granted by the local systems.