OPERS History & Background
With defined benefit and health care investment assets of $90.6 billion as of Dec. 31, 2016, OPERS is the largest state pension fund in Ohio, and the 12th-largest public retirement system and 16th-largest retirement system in the U.S.
One out of every 12 Ohioans relies on OPERS for retirement, disability and survivor benefits. In more than 80 years, OPERS has always made its benefit payments.
OPERS serves more than 1 million members:
- 346,959 are active members, currently working in public employment and contributing to their retirement
- 535,941 are inactive members who maintain retirement accounts from past public employment
- 208,361 are retirees and beneficiaries receiving monthly pension and/or health care coverage
Nearly 3,680 public employers in Ohio are part of the OPERS system.
How OPERS Works
OPERS is governed by an unpaid governing board of 11 members responsible for the administration and management of the system. Board members are elected by the employee groups they represent or are appointed by elected officials.
The Ohio General Assembly oversees the retirement systems through the Ohio Retirement Study Council
OPERS receives money from three main sources:
- Employee contributions
- Employer contributions
- Return on investments
Historically two-thirds of OPERS’ revenue, from which benefits are paid, is derived from investment returns. The remaining one-third of the revenue comes from employee and employer contributions.
Nearly 90 percent of OPERS retirees live in Ohio, spending the vast majority of retirement dollars on goods and services in the state. In addition, for every $1 of taxpayer contribution to OPERS, investments and employee contributions plus other sources of revenue return $3.49 into the Ohio economy.
- OPERS was established in 1935 to make available a secure means to provide retirement for Ohio public employees. The system was originally named the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and added “Ohio” in 2003 to become OPERS. OPERS is older than Social Security.
- In 1938, OPERS expanded to include county, municipalities, health department and park and conservancy district employees.
- In 1941, membership was made optional for elected officials.
- In 1951, survivor benefits were added.
- Although not mandated, OPERS began offering health care coverage in the 1960s and paying health care premiums in 1974.
- In 1975, a Law Enforcement Division was added to OPERS
- In 2002, OPERS announced the availability the next year of Member-Directed and Combined Plans in addition to its Traditional Plan. The new plans allow members more direct involvement in their investments.
- In 2004, the OPERS Board approved the Health Care Preservation Plan to ensure health care coverage for future retirees.
- In 2010, the Pew Center on the States Study rated Ohio as a “solid performer”, their highest ranking.
- In 2012, upon the recommendation of the OPERS Board, the Ohio Legislature unanimously passed pension legislation that will help OPERS maintain the fund’s financial strength.
- Also in 2012, after years of study and discussion, OPERS implemented changes that strengthened the health care fund and allowed the continuation of meaningful coverage for our retirees. With these changes, the health care fund is preserved for the foreseeable future.
OPERS’ assets are comprised of two funds (12/31/16 data):
- Pension: $78.7 billion
- Health care: $11.9 billion
- Total: $90.6 billion
- Pension: 80 percent funded to meet future liabilities with an amortization period of 19 years. OPERS remains in compliance with the 30-year timeframe required for paying off pension liabilities as specified in Ohio law.