Pension plan sees changes

By on January 1, 2006

Mississauga, Ont.
The Anglican Church of Canada’s $519 million pension fund is financially healthy, but membership is aging and this is a source of concern for the future, according to reports presented to CoGS.
Next year, General Synod – the church’s national office – and the 30 dioceses will increase the proportion of an employee’s salary that they pay into the plan, from 8.3 per cent currently to nine per cent. Clergy and lay employees are covered by the plan and the proportion of their pay that they contribute will remain the same at 4.4 per cent.
The plan is currently fully-funded, that is, assets exceed liabilities and the plan is currently able to cover all existing obligations to current and future retirees. As of Dec. 31, 2004, the pension plan’s financial statements show net assets available for benefits of $519 million. The plan has liabilities of $473 million.
However, as a report prepared by the Eckler Partners actuarial firm noted, “the average age of active members has steadily increased from 48.9 on Dec. 31, 1996 to 50.9 on Dec. 31, 2004.” An aging membership means members have fewer years to pay into the plan and their contributions have fewer years to grow before the pensions become payable.
While employees won’t feel any pain, since their contribution rate remains the same, the increase in employer contributions could put some strain on national and diocesan budgets, noted Judy Robinson, director of pensions, in an interview.
Eckler Partners recommended that the pensions committee, the national church group that oversees operations of the pension office, based in Toronto, consider further increasing the employer contribution rate in 2007.
CoGS also approved the merger of the diocese of Montreal pension plan and the General Synod pension plan, effective Jan. 1. Montreal was the only diocese not currently a part of the General Synod pension plan.
CoGS also approved a change to the church’s Continuing Education Plan for clergy and lay employees, which offers reimbursement for education courses, books and computer equipment. Effective Jan. 1, 2006, a limit of $1,000 reimbursement every three years for the purchase of computer hardware or software was eliminated. This restriction had been implemented in January 2004.

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