The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly heard some sobering information during last week’s policy session about pension liability under the state Public Employee Retirement System and Teacher Retirement System, also called PERS/TRS.

Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen explained that while the state Legislature made a large payment to the pension system in 2014, it also extended the amortization period by nine years.

Municipalities pay 22 percent of the PERS liability and about 12.5 percent of TRS. With that extension, the total amount paid increases because the interest builds for a longer time.

For the community of Ketchikan – borough, school district and cities combined – Brandt-Erichsen said that’s a difference of $50 million.

“Five-zero million to the Ketchikan community as a whole based upon that extension of the amortization period in 2014,” he said.

Another big concern noted in the presentation is the potential for the state to shift additional PERS/TRS liability costs to local municipalities. Assembly Member Bill Rotecki said he wonders whether other local governments are aware of these issues.

“I would be willing to dedicate more resources toward making sure the rest of the state knows the consequences – fully knows the consequences – of what could happen if the state shifts more of the burden onto the munis,” he said.

The Assembly voted unanimously to continue efforts to limit the liability of local governments. Those efforts include sharing information and concerns with other municipalities in the state through the Alaska Municipal League, and lobbying state lawmakers.