The two largest Arkansas state pension funds, which provide benefits to more than 55,000 retirees, last week reported investment returns of more than 20% in fiscal 2011.

Initial figures show a 22% return for the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System and a 25.2% return for the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System.

Investments held by the teacher’s retirement system were estimated at $11.8 billion on May 31.

The value of the investments of the public employees fund was set at $6.03 billion at the end of fiscal 2011 on June 30.

The fund lost $1.3 billion in value during fiscal 2009, falling to $4.3 billion at the beginning of fiscal 2010.

State and local governments pay a portion of its employee salaries into the fund, which totaled $168 million in fiscal 2011. Public workers paid a total of $30 million.

The system’s unfunded liabilities were put at $1.89 billion as of June 30, 2010.

Investments held by the teacher’s pension were worth $9.75 billion at the end of fiscal 2010 after falling by $2 billion in fiscal 2009.

Unfunded liabilities totaled $3.8 billion at the end of fiscal 2010.

The public employee system has 45,000 working members who earn an average of $33,544 a year. The 24,609 retired members receive an average of $12,073 a year.

The teacher system has 72,000 working members who earn an average of $32,980 a year. The 31,000 retired members receive annual benefits that average $20,041.

The six Arkansas government retirement systems have total assets of more than $20 billion. The plans include 126,000 working members and 60,000 retirees.

The Arkansas Teacher Retirement System has been providing retirement benefits to the state’s public school and education employees since 1937. The Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System, formerly the Arkansas State Employees Retirement System, was launched in 1957.

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