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Audit finds bonus for State Teachers Retirement System pension should be examined

Suzanne Laird holds a sign that she says she’s brought to STRS board meetings for years, after the board voted to suspend cost of living adjustments for benefit recipients. STRS says it pays out over $7 billion in benefits each year to more than 152,000 retirees, survivors and others.
Karen Kasler
/
Ohio Public Radio
Suzanne Laird holds a sign that she says she’s brought to STRS board meetings for years, after the board voted to suspend cost of living adjustments for benefit recipients. STRS says it pays out over $7 billion in benefits each year to more than 152,000 retirees, survivors and others.

Fourteen months after his office announced it, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber’s special audit of the over $90 billion State Teachers Retirement System is finally out, showing no fraud but suggesting lawmakers need to make more transparent the fund’s investment strategy and the process that paid $10 million in performance incentives this year, though the fund lost $5 billion.

Retired teachers concerned about a lack of cost of living raises for five years hired forensic investigator Ted Siedle to look into STRS.

His report blasting the fund for a lack of transparency and oversight led to the state’s special audit. Siedle is pleased with the report, but notes lawmakers would need to make the changes suggested to improve transparency and public scrutiny.

“It was worth the wait. But again, I don't think the public should have had to wait, and I think the delay was typical elected official politics.”

In a statement, STRS executive director Bill Neville said the thoroughness of the audit refutes much inaccurate information, and that STRS “remains steadfast in our dedication to ensuring the sustainability of the pension fund”. The fund lost $5 billion this year but paid $10 million in performance incentives.

In September, the pension's board awarded 90 of its investment managers nearly $10 million in bonuses.

STRS suspended cost of living adjustments in teachers' pensions in 2017. Retired teachers were awarded a 3% cost of living increase beginning in July of this year but that hasn't kept pace with inflation.

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