Michael Williamson, SWIB exec director, State Journal photo

Michael Williamson, executive director of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

Retirees in Wisconsin who worked for a state or local government agency in most parts of the state can expect a small boost in their pension checks this spring.

Retired public employees, whose pensions are paid through the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), will get a bump that averages at least $300 to $400 a year, starting in May, a state agency said Wednesday.

The nearly 200,000 retirees receiving pensions from the retirement system’s Core Trust Fund are expected to receive a raise of between 1.3 percent and 1.9 percent this year, the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) said.

Most retirees in the system worked in public service for 22 years and earned an average annual pension of about $23,000, said ETF spokesman Mark Lamkins.

That works out to an increase of between $299 a year, or $24.92 a month, and $437 a year, or $36.42 a month. More precise raises will be determined in March, Lamkins said.

Pension adjustments are made each year, based primarily on how well the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) staff does in managing money in the pension system’s trust funds.

“In a time when many public pension funds across the country are struggling with issues related to under-funding, SWIB has helped fuel one of the best funded pension systems in the U.S., protecting and growing the assets that more than 600,000 members of the WRS count on for a more secure retirement,” Michael Williamson, SWIB executive director, said in a statement.

In 2016, the Wisconsin Retirement System’s Core Fund had a preliminary return of 8.5 percent and a five-year preliminary return of 8.1 percent, the Investment Board said Tuesday. The 2016 return beat SWIB’s benchmark of 8.0 percent, which is based mainly on stock market index returns.

The Core Fund is the primary fund that supplies pensions for all retirees who are members of the Wisconsin Retirement System. It is diversified, with holdings in stocks, bonds, real estate, loans and private equity, and its impact is smoothed over five years.

As of Dec. 31, 2016, the Core Fund had a preliminary market value of $89.3 billion.

The Variable Fund is a smaller, all-stock account in which nearly 40,000 retirees choose to participate. Its impact corresponds with its results each year. As of Dec. 31, 2016, the Variable Fund’s preliminary value was $7 billion.

The Variable Fund ended 2016 with a preliminary return of 10.6 percent, ahead of its benchmark of 10.4 percent, and a five-year preliminary return of 12.1 percent.

Participants in the Variable Fund can expect to see an increase of 4 percent to 8 percent in that portion of their pension payments, ETF said.

Last year, Core Fund payments rose 0.5 percent while Variable Fund payments took a 5 percent cut.

Public employees who participate in the WRS but do not yet receive pensions will see a boost of 7.6 percent to 8 percent in their Core Fund accounts. Those with money in the Variable Fund will get a 9 percent to 13 percent hike in those account balances, ETF said.

The Wisconsin Retirement System is the ninth-largest public pension fund in the U.S.

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