PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — A judge is ordering an immediate 25 percent cut to pensions paid to retirees of a Mississippi Gulf Coast hospital system.

WLOX-TV reports the Friday ruling by special Jackson County Circuit Court Judge James Bell came at the recommendation of a financial expert.

Jim Reeves, a lawyer representing some retirees, says the benefit cut was sharper than it would have been, but a settlement was delayed by objections and the troubled pension fund kept paying out full benefits.

"Unfortunately, the drawn-out legal appeals have cost the pension enormously, and every day of delay means less benefits for all pension members," Reeves said in a statement. "The court recognized that reality."

Singing River, which operates hospitals in Pascagoula and Ocean Springs, stopped paying into the system from 2009 to 2014 without telling employees and retirees. A settlement approved by a federal judge in January seeks to stretch out remaining money by cutting pension payments below what employees were originally promised. It will pay more than $150 million to pensioners over 35 years, but retirees could get only 59 percent of their original benefit.

Harvey Barton, an attorney for 200 retirees who oppose the settlement, said retirees were supposed to be given 60 days' notice of any benefit cuts. Barton is again appealing the settlement to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Information from: WLOX-TV, http://www.wlox.com