The move, which impacts 490,000 teachers and retirees statewide, comes after consultants told STRS Ohio to dial back its expected annual rate of return on its $72.1 billion investment portfolio. The rate had been set at 7.75 percent — too rosy. Likewise, consultants and actuaries advised trustees that the system’s assumptions about payroll growth and life expectancy for teachers and retirees were out of whack.
Earlier this year, trustees agreed to change assumptions but in doing so, accrued liabilities ballooned on the financial sheets. Ohio pension systems are required to be able to pay off their unfunded liabilities within a 30-year window. But with the assumption changes, STRS was looking at a 57.7-year window.
Retired Beavercreek teacher Linda Beaver, of Miamisburg, said losing the COLA means “you do more with less.”
“Retirees wil have to decide what is most important and set priorities. Probably less travel, less eating out, just have to make the money go farther,” Beaver said.
STRS trustees agreed that the cost of living allowance issue will be reviewed within five years. Beaver said she would have preferred that the board look at it annually. “Five years is a long time to wait for a review.”
Dean Dennis, a retired Cincinnati teacher, blasted the trustees to listening to public comments — after the vote was taken.
“I paid into that system for 35 years. My employer paid into it for 35 years. They met all their earnings assumptions. They set that money aside for me and now they’re taking it out,” Dennis said. “They’re just robbing my pension.”
Related: Retiree health care cuts looming for cops and firefighters in Ohio
Like in other states, Ohio’s public pensions are defined benefits systems. The pension benefit is based on age, years of service and final average salary and it’s guaranteed. Defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) funds, are more common in the private sector.
Public employees in Ohio do not participate in Social Security.
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