Ohio retired teachers get long-awaited changes to pension benefits
Retirees push to restore permeant cost-of-living adjustments, changes to retirement system
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Ohio’s retired teachers drawing from their pensions will see a bump in their monthly checks starting in July.
The State Teachers Retirement Board on Thursday unanimously approved a one-time 3% cost-of-living adjustment, also called a COLA, for eligible retirees.
STRS eliminated the COLA in 2017 after scaling back the adjustments in prior years due to concerns about the pension fund’s long-term viability. Thursday’s move did not reinstate the COLA permanently like many retirees advocated for, but board members signaled more adjustments are possible in the future.
“This is just the first step in the right direction,” said STRS Board Chair Robert A. McFee.
The pension fund is one of the largest in the country.
Active members contribute 14% of their salaries to the pension fund, something the board did not vote to change Thursday.
They also need to work for 35 years before they can retire. The board on Thursday eliminated a requirement that was set to take effect in 2026 which would’ve made teachers also wait until age 60 to retire. Several retirees continue their push to lower the work requirement from 35 back to 30 years.
Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro called the one-time COLA a “welcome step forward for all” and credited its members for advocating for the changes:
“While celebrating the news that some benefits will be restored, OEA also acknowledges the active and retired teachers whose sacrifices over the years, including higher contributions and suspended COLA payments, have helped to return the STRS fund to a healthy position, enabling the restoration of some benefits now,” DiMauro said.
“After the Great Recession, STRS was projected to run out of money, which would have been devastating for Ohio’s teachers and our public schools. Like many of our members, OEA’s ultimate wish is to have the COLA permanently restored when the fund is able to manage that. Unfortunately, at this point, that would add more than a $13 billion unfunded liability and would put future benefits at risk. Active teachers could again be asked to work longer, pay more and receive less in retirement, and that would not be fair. OEA has high hopes for continued growth in the fund that will allow adjustments that benefit both active and retired teachers.”
Some candidates for the STRS Board said the one-time COLA is a step in the right direction, but “falls short of what STRS retirees need and deserve.”
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