Maryland Pension Map Breaks Down Retirement System Debt by County

Interactive map reveals the staggering amounts counties spend on public employee retirement packages

Oct 1, 2012

Rockville, MD – The Maryland Public Policy Institute today announces a full update to their interactive Maryland Pension Map, including a revised and expanded spreadsheet of all pension/benefit spending and debt broken available for download. The map displays current spending on pensions and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) for the past fiscal year, as well as the overall health of retirement system trust funds.

“Public pensions have been all over the news recently, but most articles focus on the smaller issues,” said John J. Walters, research associate with the Maryland Public Policy Institute and creator of the Maryland Pension Map. “For example: ‘Is 7.75 percent a realistic anticipated rate of return on investments?’ Or: ‘How did our investments do last year?’ This map takes a look at the bigger picture; at the general health of the systems in each county.”

The picture painted by the map is not a particularly pretty one. Average unfunded liabilities for pensions and OPEB hover around 50 percent, and counties are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each and every year just to keep treading water. Downloading the spreadsheet containing the full data – much more than is displayed on the map – only darkens the image by revealing the exact percentages each county is contributing towards their obligations.

“When you really drill down like this, you see that the real issue that faces Maryland counties is the rapidly increasing cost of benefits, specifically healthcare,” said Christopher B. Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute. “County pensions are funded, on average, to 76 percent. That’s not great, but it’s nowhere near as catastrophic as being 91 percent unfunded, which is where the average county finds its OPEB liabilities.”

Those curious about the status of their county’s retirement system can view the map on the Maryland Public Policy Institute website:

Data collected for this project can be downloaded directly by following this link: