W.Va. SC decreases budget request by $2 million

Jessica M. Karmasek Feb. 27, 2012, 3:55pm


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, citing the health of the state's Judicial Retirement System, is lowering its budget appropriation request by more than $2 million.

Supreme Court Administrative Director Steve Canterbury sent a two-page letter Monday to Sen. Roman Prezioso, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Delegate Harry Keith White, chairman of the House Finance Committee, notifying them of the change in requested monies for the upcoming fiscal year.

Canterbury points to the funding of the retirement system.

"With surpluses in the state budget during the last several years, responsible managers of the state's funds have looked into ways to use surplus money to cut the long-term liabilities of several state obligations -- primarily various state employee pension funds and their related costs," he wrote.

In 2005, then-Gov. Joe Manchin made one-time additional payments into some of the state's pension funds to help drive down the total unfunded liabilities in those funds.

"None of that additional money was appropriated for the Judicial Retirement System," Canterbury wrote. "Indeed, unlike any other state employees, the judges themselves were asked to contribute additional money to the pension system in order to help erase the unfunded liability with an increase of their contributions to 10.5 percent of their salaries."

In addition, the Court itself contributed more to the JRS than the minimum amount ultimately certified by the actuarial report each January, he said.

"The Court used the preliminary numbers provided by the actuary during the summers when the Court's appropriation requests were prepared and approved by the justices, and did not reduce the payments when the January reports were issued, instead paying the additional amounts in order to erase the unfunded liability as soon as reasonably possible," Canterbury wrote.

As a result of the investments and their return, the JRS is now "overly funded" -- by more than 130 percent, he said.

"The unfunded liability in the Judicial Retirement System no longer exists," he wrote.

Canterbury said the only way to return the $1,714,000 to the general fund for the Legislature to appropriate elsewhere is to reduce the Court's current appropriate request by that amount.

The total reduction would be $2,253,761 -- $1,714,000 plus a previous reduction request of $539,761.

"We hope that this clears up any confusion or misgivings about the Court's intentions regarding the Judicial Retirement System and the Court's goal of eliminating that fund's unfunded liability," Canterbury wrote.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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