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1 million Ohio public employees, retirees may see pension cut

Ohio’s biggest public pension fund considers benefit cuts

Ohio’s biggest public pension system is considering cutting the cost of living allowances for its 1-million members as a way to shore up the long-term finances of the fund.

Ohio Public Employees Retirement System trustees on Wednesday discussed options that could affect all current and future retirees, including tying the cost of living allowance to inflation and capping it and delaying the onset of the COLA for new retirees.

No decision has been made and trustees will discuss the options again in October. So far, some 72,000 members responded to an OPERS survey about possible changes. OPERS spokesman Todd Hutchins said 70 percent of retirees responding to the survey report that they prefer that the COLA be capped, rather than frozen.

Related: Ohio public pension systems shift health care costs to retirees

OPERS is the latest of the five public pensions systems in Ohio to consider benefit cuts.

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The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio in April voted to indefinitely suspend the COLA for retired teachers. Trustees said they weren’t certain that the cut would be enough to shore up the finances of the $72-billion fund.

Related: Retired teachers to lose cost of living increase

Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund is expected to hire a consultant to help restructure its health care benefits. OP&F announced in May it would switch in January 2019 to issuing stipends to each retiree, who can then use the money to purchase coverage.

Related: Retiree health care cuts looming for cops and firefighters in Ohio

School Employees Retirement System, which covers janitors, bus drivers and cafeteria workers, is taking steps to link its cost of living allowance to inflation, cap it at 2.5 percent, and delay its onset for new retirees.

Related: School employees protest proposed pension cuts at Statehouse

Combined, Ohio’s five public pension systems have 1.9 million members, beneficiaries and retirees and have nearly $200 billion in investments.

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