The Office of the State Auditor released its analysis “The Cost of Yesterday’s Pension Promises to Public Education.”
This analysis identifies that nearly $204 million is being diverted to fund past pension promises, that were not adequately funded when those promises vested, away from current public educational activities. This represents 3.7% of Utah’s $5.5 billion total public education expenditures in fiscal year 2015.
If yesterday’s taxpayers had fully funded the pension obligations, and today’s taxpayers were not required to pay for the unfunded liability, that money could instead be reallocated to any one of the following:
Reduce education expenses by 3.7%,
Increase the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) by almost 7.5%,
Increase teacher pay by approximately 14%,
Raise public education employee wages by approximately 8.5%,
Double the number of teacher aides and paraprofessionals inside classrooms, or
Operate an additional 40 elementary schools or several hundred new classrooms.
State Auditor John Dougall cautions, “This is just one example among many of the painful consequences of the temptation of previous generations to mortgage their children’s future by spending money they did not have. Today’s policymakers should continue to make sure that today’s expenses are properly paid, past underfunding is fixed in a timely manner, and that promises are not made that would have to be paid for by our children and grandchildren.”