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Checks Not in the Mail

More than 100,000 retired educators in Ohio won't receive their annual bonus checks this year from their state pension fund.

It's the first time in 21 years that the checks—part of a profit-sharing plan—haven't been issued.

The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, one of the nation's largest pension programs for teachers, didn't make enough return on its investments in the last fiscal year to provide the bonus, said Herb Dyer, the fund's executive director.

Participants will still receive their usual monthly payouts, he added.

"When you're taking some risks with your investments, you occasionally get setbacks," he said. "I'm just sorry it happened now."

Mr. Dyer said the flagging economy is to blame for the bad news.

About 400,000 public school teachers belong to the pension fund.

The 104,000 former teachers who draw benefits from the system received an average of $500 per bonus check in past years. "I'm sad that we've broken what had become a tradition," Mr. Dyer said.

The impact on retired educators will vary.

According to Mr. Dyer, some of them used the bonus checks to buy holiday gifts. Others used them to cover living costs.

"The really adverse effect will be by our more senior retirees," added John E. Grossman, the president of the 5,700-member Columbus Education Association in the state capital. "Their income is not at the level of today, so the size of their retirement is not as large. This check makes a big impact."

More than 2,000 retired educators belong to the Columbus union and are eligible for the bonus checks. The union is an affiliate of the National Education Association.

The pension system as a whole is sound and has assets of more than $50 billion, Mr. Dyer stressed.

If the economy doesn't improve, it's unlikely that the bonus checks will be issued next year, he added.

"We're in a tough period right now, and I don't see when it is going to end," Mr. Dyer said.

—Julie Blair

Vol. 21, Issue 11, Page 18

Published in Print: November 14, 2001, as State Journal

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