Union County employees to get OPERS update
The Union County Commissioners and the benefits committee will host a "Changes in OPERS" (Ohio Public Employees Retirement System) meeting for current county employees and retirees at 5 p.m. Sept. 18 at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 233 W. Sixth St.
The program was initially titled "Proposed Changes in OPERS" but the Ohio legislature passed pension reform Wednesday in a nearly unanimous vote.
"I think sometimes we have more good luck than good sense," Commissioner Gary Lee said. "We couldn't have timed this educational session any better if we'd tried."
The changes -- which will cost OPERS beneficiaries billions of dollars over the long term -- were necessary to maintain the viability of the retirement system, especially its health care provisions, Lee said.
"I hear from a lot of retirees who say if it wasn't for the OPERS supplemental health insurance, they'd be out of pocket between $200 and $500 a month," he said. "That's a ton of money for someone on a fixed income."
Personnel from OPERS will be on hand to explain the new benefit and health care changes, which are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 7, pending Gov. John Kasich's signature, which is expected later this month.
In recent House testimony, OPERS executive director Karen Carraher said her system had a total membership base of roughly 1 million people, including 800,000 active and inactive members and 185,000 retirees. OPERS works closely with more than 3,700 employers Ohio.
OPERS has a significant impact on the Ohio economy. More than 90 percent of OPERS retirees remain in Ohio and spend more than $5 billion in benefits within the state. OPERS has invested more than $1 billion in Ohio businesses.
Carraher told the House Health and Aging Subcommittee that the changes "were intended to strike a balance ... between not effecting enough changes, which would require additional, more drastic changes at a later date, and making changes that were too severe, which would cause undue hardship on our members."
The changes in the retirement system include increases in retirement ages (from 30 years working for the state to 32 years; from 65 with five years of service to 67); possible lower cost-of-living adjustments (from a set rate of 3 percent to a variable rate tied to the Consumer Price Index not higher than 3 percent); and higher contribution rates (to be determined).
The event is open to any OPERS employee, spouse or retiree interested in learning more about the changes.