Mississippi PERS employees receive taxpayer-funded gym memberships
Employees of the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi (PERS) have been working up a sweat at local gyms with taxpayers picking up the tab. PERS is paying for its employees to have memberships at four area gyms, according to the state’s transparency website.
The agency — which manages the state’s defined-benefit pension system for state and local employees — has spent $114,000 during the last three years for gym memberships for its employees.
Here’s a list of all of the contracts:
Contract for $8,000 from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 to provide gym memberships for PERS employees at First Baptist of Jackson.
A second contract for $8,000 with First Baptist that started on April 1, 2016 and ended on March 31.
A third contract for $8,000 with First Baptist that began on April 1 and will run through March 31, 2018.
The Madison Healthplex received a $10,000 contract from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 for gym memberships for PERS employees.
The Healthplex contract was renewed, again for $10,000, for the period from April 1, 2016 until March 31.
Another renewal for the Healthplex for $10,000 that started in April 1 and will last until March 31, 2017.
Metropolitan YMCAs received their first contract for $10,000 for gym memberships for PERS employees on April 1, 2015 and it expired on March 31, 2016.
The contract was renewed for $10,000 and a term that started on April 1, 2016 and expired on March 31.
Another renewal for the YMCA contract started on April 1 and will expire on March 31, 2018.
The Club, which has gyms throughout the metropolitan area, received its first $10,000 contract that began on April 1, 2015 and expired on March 31, 2016.
That contract was renewed at $10,000 for a term that began on April 1, 2016 and ended on March 31.
It was renewed for $10,000 and it began on April 1 and will end on March 31, 2018.
While the gym memberships for employees are a drop in the bucket, PERS’ financial position continues to erode.
According to the latest annual actuarial report released in October, PERS — which serves most state, county and municipal employees — had its unfunded liability increase to more than $16.8 billion. It also earned only a minimal rate of return, saw the number of retirees increase by more than 3,000 and suffered a funding ratio drop from 60.4 percent to 60 percent.
Funding ratio is defined as the share of future obligations covered by current assets.
The plan’s unfunded liability — which is the amount the plan is short of being fully funded —went from $15.9 billion in fiscal 2015 to $16.8 billion in fiscal 2016, an increase of 5.2 percent.
The plan’s unfunded liability has increased 154 percent in only a decade.
Demographics are also not favorable to PERS’s future outlook. The number of retirees receiving benefits has grown 40.6 percent since 2007, with 3,145 new retirees leaving the government workforce in fiscal 2016. The number of employees who contribute to the plan also fell from more than 157,000 in fiscal 2015 to about 154,000 in fiscal 2016.
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