Investments held by the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System totaled $5.98 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2011, an increase of $247 million from the previous period.

The system’s investments grew in value by 15.5% in the past year, and by 24.7% over the past two years.

Officials told the pension board last week that the retirement plan for state and local government workers had an unfunded liability of $1.9 billion on June 30, 2010, the end of its fiscal year.

Plan participants include 45,394 working members with an average salary of $33,544. The employees contribute $30 million a year to the plan, with state and local governments adding $168 million.

Retired participants include 24,609 members that receive an average of $12,073 a year, and 1,811 members of a deferred retirement plan with credits totaling $51.6 million.

Plan trustees are expected to decide in August whether to increase the employer contribution rate in 2012. The current contribution rate is 12.46% of an employee’s annual salary, but that will go to 13.47% on July 1.

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