Pennsylvania’s Municipal Pensions Are Underfunded By $7.7 Billion, And Here's Why

May 4, 2015

Standing in a sun-drenched room, Jim Rosipal pointed to a framed assemblage on the wall. In it, a police officer’s uniform shirt, a medal for valor, a gas cap cover from the Harley Davidson he rode, and valve stem covers in the shape of little pigs. “Back in those days we were called pigs every now and then,” Rosipal said. “Didn’t bother us at all.”

Rosipal worked for the Monroeville Police Department for 28 years. After serving in the Vietnam War and a brief stint as a security guard, it was his first and last full time job. 

“My dad was a policeman in Patton Township before it became Monroeville,” he said. “My brother was a policeman in Monroeville. So to me it was in my blood. I always wanted to be a policeman, and I always wanted to be a policeman in Monroeville.”   

He retired 18 years ago, when he was 52 years old. He has some income – he performs drug tests, rates golf courses, and drives a hearse—but he relies on his pension for most of his support. “It’s my paycheck for the work that I did do in the past,” he said.

Rosipal has what’s called a defined benefit plan. That means he’ll receive pension checks—calculated based on his salary during his work years—until his death. It’s a kind of long term bargain public agencies make with their employees: relatively low salaries now in exchange for steady benefits upon retirement. 

But the pension fund that cuts him a check every month is distressed. It has about 73 percent of the money it needs. In all, 562 municipalities in the state are at some level of distress, underfunded in total by $7.7 billion.

Read more of this special report at the website of our partner Keystone Crossroads.