Retired teachers raise concerns about financial choices made by the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System

The president of the Lucas County Retired Teachers Association said she has not received the cost-of-living adjustment payment she was told she would receive when she retired.

TOLEDO, Ohio –

Retirement was something Susan Santoro said she didn’t think about except with excitement.

After working 31 years in education, she became president of the Lucas County Retired Teachers Association. She said she was told Ohio had one of the best teacher retirees in the country, but now, she’s not so sure.

The Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) is where teachers pay to receive retirement funds.

“It feels like we’re not supported,” Santoro said.

When she retired, she said she was promised a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, each year that accounts for the rising cost of living.

Santoro said she received one after she retired and several others, but none of them were paid regularly.

A STRS spokesman said the STRS board approved a 3 percent COLA in fiscal year 2023 and a 1 percent COLA for fiscal year 2024.

That’s after she and others said STRS management received bonuses.

“As we reduce our pension and force people to pay more, employees have received generous rewards,” said Robin Rayfield, executive director of the Ohio Teachers Retirement Association.

A STRS representative said in 2023, the STRS board approved approximately “$8.6 million in performance-based incentive payments at its August 2023 meeting.”

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Santoro said it’s frustrating not getting her COLA pay and then seeing management get bonuses.

“It makes planning for the future and your budget impossible,” Santoro said. “Honestly, it has become financially problematic for many of our members.”

To help protect retired teachers, Rayfield said teachers have been working to vote reformers to sit on the STRS pension board.

“People who want reform, I’d rather call them ‘people who want transparency,’ have won the election overwhelmingly,” Rayfield said, referring to the STRS pension board.

Teachers advocating reform now have a majority on the pension board.

The concern comes after Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against two STRS pension board members last week.

RELATED: ‘Hostile Takeover’: Ohio AG Investigates State Teachers’ Retirement System

Rayfield said he thinks the inquiry will come after the victory giving pro-reform teachers a majority.

Santoro said he would like the lawsuit against the two board members to be dropped and that the governor should investigate what is going on with the board.

She said that now that there is a majority of reform board members, she thinks there will be changes.

“Things are very promising that we will be heard,” said Santoro. “But it looks like the governor is again trying to undermine all of that.”

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