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For the first time in years, retired Ohio teachers will get cost-of-living raises again

 A sign brought by a retired teacher from Tuscarawas County to the State Teachers Retirement System meeting on March 17, 2022.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
A sign brought by a retired teacher from Tuscarawas County to the State Teachers Retirement System meeting on March 17, 2022.

More than 150,000 retired Ohio teachers are learning some good news – that they’ll see a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, in their pension checks for the first time in years starting for some in July.

The board of the State Teachers Retirement System voted to up their benefits, as other pension systems have continued or increased theirs. But that could change again.

The board voted to approve a one-time 3% cost-of-living increase on monthly checks for those who've been receiving benefits for at least 60 months, or since before June 1, 2018. The resolution also eliminated the minimum retirement age of 60. That was supposed to take effect in 2026.

But teacher contributions to the fund weren’t reduced, and another benefit review will happen next spring, so further adjustments could be made. There was some concern expressed that the fund is paying out more than it's bringing in.

State Teachers Retirement System Director William Neville told the legislature’s Retirement Study Council that "strong investment returns" in the last fiscal year have brought STRS to 80.1% funded, up from 77.4%. STRS manages about $94.5 billion in assets for half a million retirees and active public educators.

STRS has maintained the COLA suspension was needed to protect the fund’s liability. It had reduced the COLA from 3% to 2% in 2013 before suspending it completely in 2017.

But as other pension funds continued their COLAs, teachers grew frustrated. A former SEC lawyer hired by retired teachers determined STRS wasn’t transparent and had squandered money, but STRS maintained it had appropriate oversight and was committed to transparency.

The state auditor’s office is also still working on a review of STRS.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.