Abell Foundation awards grant to MarylandReporter.com for pension series

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The Abell Foundation of Baltimore has awarded a $35,000 grant to MarylandReporter.com to produce a year-long series of stories on Maryland’s pension system for teachers and public employees.

In its grant proposal, Maryland Reporter said, “the state pension system is only 65%  funded, meaning there is at least $20 billion in future liabilities to pay for pension promises already made, plus another $10 billion in promised health insurance benefits for retirees.”

Critics of Maryland’s current system, including a major bond-rating firm, actually project that the liabilities are much, much higher, mainly because the rate of return on the pension system’s investments will likely be much lower than projected. The controversial changes made to teacher and employee pensions in 2011, including higher contributions and longer waiting for benefits, may not be enough to guarantee the long-term health of the system. This could impact future funding for key state programs in health, education and public safety, the grant proposal said.

In the past three years, MarylandReporter.com has already done more stories about state pensions than any other news organization in the state. The grant will help the news website continue its coverage, and produce a package of 10 stories in the fall that tell how the problem happened and what can be done about it.

Foundation focuses on Baltimore and Maryland

Founded 50 years ago by executives of the Baltimore Sun, The Abell Foundation, is among the largest private foundations in Maryland, with assets of more than $305 million. The focus of its grant-making is Baltimore City and Maryland, with a priority on supporting efforts that enhance the quality of life in the areas of community development, education, health and human services, criminal justice and addictions, workforce development , environment, and arts and culture.

MarylandReporter.com Inc. is a three-year-old nonprofit news website dedicated to accountability and transparency on how taxpayer dollars are raised and spent. In addition to the new Abell Foundation grant, MarylandReporter.com has  continuing grants from the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Rothschild Art Foundation of Towson, corporate sponsors and over 100 individual donors. MarylandReporter.com has been designated a 501(c)(3) by the Internal Revenue, meaning contributions to it are tax deductible.

The website produces original content on Maryland government and politics and a daily roundup of news from over 50 different website on state government and politics. It sends out a daily newsletter of its content to 5,700 subscribers.