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ALBANY – Riding a rebound on Wall Street, the state’s largest public pension fund saw a 10.38 percent rate of return in the year ending March 31, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced Monday.

The gains took the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s balance to an estimated $160.4 billion, the third-largest public fund in the nation. The fund has more than one million current public employees, retirees and beneficiaries at more than 3,000 state and local government entities, from villages to large state agencies to professional police and fire departments across the state.

For taxpayers, the fund’s growth is important because it helps set – on a smoothed-out basis over a number of years – how much localities have to pay for employee pension contributions. Those rates, which have skyrocketed since the 2008 and 2009 fiscal meltdown, have been eating into fiscal plans in New York state, putting increased pressure on property taxes.

Pension costs are not covered by the state’s property tax cap, so a poor-performing Common Retirement Fund ends up boosting annual tax levy hikes beyond the cap’s 2 percent floor.

The $160.4 billion balance is up from $108.9 billion reported for 2009. The fund’s active members include 613,000 working for state and local governments and 34,000 in police and fire agencies. There are 380,000 retirees in the system and 30,000 beneficiaries.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com