All told, the cities that went with the alternative method now have pension plans that are 22 percent funded - half as well funded as the cities that went with the standard plan. In 30 years, only eight of the 32 pension plans are projected to be fully funded.
Charleston, which initially took the alternative method, now has a police pension plan that is only 8 percent funded and a firefighter pension plan that is only 5 percent funded.
Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co. made a blunt point about the alternative method in its recent report. The firm said the alternative funding method adopted in the 1990s wasn't guaranteed to produce a "reasonable" payment strategy.
"Many of the funds using the Alternative method are very poorly funded and will require a significantly higher level of contributions in the near future in order to bring the funded ratio to a more secure level," the report said.
And that doesn't tell the whole story: Charleston and Huntington recently went to the Legislature to get a third and fourth option for funding their pension plans. Huntington is trying one of these funding plans, and Charleston is trying the other.
While each of the two new plans is meant to ensure the cities' retirement funds remain solvent, it's unlikely cities can continue without making changes.
They'll either have to cut benefits to firefighters and police, raise taxes on everyone or get a bailout from the state.
Charleston's current leadership team has been struggling to shore up these retirement funds. But, in some respects, they have to plug holes that were left by their predecessors.
"If this administration had been in place 10 years ago, 15 years ago, that would have been awesome," Taylor said.
On the other hand, it's not as if cities didn't face trade-offs based on the decision they made in the early 1990s.
Cities that went with the standard plan were forced to use money they could have spent on roads, water and other services to pay down pension costs. Charleston, by keeping its pension payments low, presumably had more money freed up for that kind of spending.
Weighing all that may be an impossible task, Grigoraci said.
In West Virginia, 31 cities have 53 separate firefighter and police pension plans. Some cities have a police department but not a fire department.
Of those 53 plans, there are 14 standard pension plans, 32 alternative pension plans and seven pension plans using one of two new funding methods created by the Legislature.