PERS’ value a new record: $29.6 billion |

PERS’ value a new record: $29.6 billion

The Public Employees Retirement System portfolio was worth a record $29.6 billion with about two weeks left in the fiscal year, Executive Officer Dana Bilyeu said last Wednesday.

That’s about $4.4 billion more than the $25.2 billion the system had at the end of fiscal year 2011.

The portfolio earned slightly more than 15 percent on its investments this year. That follows a banner year in 2011, when it earned 21 percent on its investments — its highest return ever.

Bilyeu said, however, that the amount of unfunded liability within the system — the amount the system would owe workers if everyone retired tomorrow — probably won’t change much from its level of 71 percent in fiscal 2011. That calculation can’t be made until after the books close on fiscal year 2012; the number likely will come to about $12 billion.

PERS provides retirement benefits to more than 180,000 state, county, local and school district public employees and retirees, as well as their dependents. It provides services for all 180 governmental entities in Nevada, including the Incline Village General Improvement District.

The system has sustained negative returns on its investments only four times in the past 28 years — the most serious in 2009, when the recession dropped the value of its portfolio nearly 16 percent. The other three declines were all less than 4 percent and occurred during recession periods as well.

Over that 28-year period, PERS has averaged better than 9.5 percent a year on its investments.

Bilyeu announced the numbers Wednesday at the June meeting of the retirement board.

She did so as the board approved a contract with AON Hewitt to study how PERS operates and compare it to 126 other public retirement plans nationwide. Those plans represent more than 8 million people and $2.5 trillion.

The study will compare a wide variety of factors in the operation of those public employee plans, including investment assumption, accuracy of projections, funding ratios and liabilities. It will be conducted with $50,000 in PERS funding, and the results will be presented this fall, Bilyeu said.

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