History of OSERS

Since 1909, the Omaha School District has maintained a retirement system for its teachers. Since then, systems covering other employees were added. In 1951, the Nebraska Legislature consolidated the existing systems into one new System. Amendments of significance in the Nebraska statutes and federal Social Security Act have occurred from time to time. These changes in order of their occurrence are outlined briefly below:

1951 - New System

Prior to 1951, three separate retirement systems existed. In 1951 the Nebraska Legislature repealed these three separate systems and created the present single System covering all employees. This act provided, however, that a member of a pre-existing system might elect to retain his benefit and contribution rights under one of the former systems in lieu of the new System benefits and contributions. The members who so elected then became known by the following titles for retirement purposes:

(1) Employees covered by the former Omaha Teachers Retirement System were known as "Teachers,"

(2) Employees covered by the former Non-Teaching Employee Retirement System were known as "Non-Teachers,"

(3) Employees covered by the former Cafeteria Employee Retirement System were known as "Cafeteria."

All other employees became members of the new System and received credit for membership service starting September 1, 1951. Benefits as well as contributions under the new System became directly related to a member's compensation by formula. The maximum covered annual compensation under the new System became $5,000, but the maximum for Teachers, Non-Teachers, and Cafeteria remained $3,000.

1955 Amendments

On September 24, 1955, Omaha School employees voted to become participants in the federal Social Security program. All Social Security benefits are payable in addition to the System benefits. As a result of Social Security coverage, changes were made in the benefit and contribution formulas of the System effective August 31, 1955. In general, the changes reduced contributions and benefits to 60% of the rates formerly in effect. In addition, the maximum covered compensation was increased from $5,000 to $6,000 except for Teachers, Non-Teachers, and Cafeteria, which remained at $3,000.

The amount contributed by the School District was also reduced to 60% of the rates in effect prior to the change and the School District's contributions, matching the refunds paid upon the withdrawal or death of employees, were retained in the retirement fund rather than being returned to the School District.

1963 Amendments

Effective September 1, 1963, several changes were made in the new System. The limit on covered compensation for contributions and benefits of members was removed.

The service retirement annuity credit was increased in order to integrate with the modifications in federal Social Security between 1955 and 1963. The disability annuity for members was increased to 100% of the service retirement annuity accrued to date of disability and the restriction as to the number of years for which it was payable was removed. The offset in the benefit formula for the Nebraska State Service Annuity credit was placed on a year-to-year basis for all members, increasing the annuity credit for service after September 1, 1951 for active and retired alike.

The employees who were participating as Teachers, Non-Teachers, and Cafeteria began to make contributions and receive benefit credits at the same rates as other members of the System. It should be noted that any employee who retained rights under a pre-existing system still receives credit in accordance with the provisions of the former system if this is more than the credit, after the State service annuity offset, would be under the 1963 amendments.

The contribution rate for employees was changed to integrate with the modifications in Social Security and was no longer subject to revision depending upon the degree of actuarial soundness of the System as had been provided in 1962. The School District became solely responsible for maintaining the solvency of the System on the basis of annual actuarial valuations. The School District again became entitled to refunds equal to the refunds paid upon withdrawal or death of employees.

The restriction prohibiting the crediting of interest on refunds to employees who withdraw from employment during the first ten years of service was removed. Thus, all employees who withdraw after one year or more of service receive interest on their contributions made since September 1, 1951.

1965 Amendments

Effective September 1, 1965, a pre-retirement survivor's annuity was added to the System for long-service employees. This change gave an employee with 25 or more years of service protection at death approximately equivalent in value to the vesting which already existed at termination of employment for an employee with the same period of service.

Effective January 1, 1966, the Social Security tax base was increased from $4,800 to $6,600 per year. This change became effective in the System's contribution and benefit formulas as of September 1, 1966.

1967 Amendments

The 77th Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 494 which amended the Nebraska School Retirement System, effective October 23, 1967. A major change was the increase in the State service annuity credit from $1.50 to $3.00 per month for each year of credited service after July 1, 1968 and the removal of the 35 year limitation on credited State service. For the purpose of determining the new State service annuity offset in calculating the net Omaha annuity, the additional $1.50 per month for each year of service after July 1, 1968 is not applicable, but removal of the 35 year limitation does apply. This means that the State service annuity offset is still determined on the basis of $1.50 per month for each year of service. The increase in the State service annuity offset by virtue of eliminating the 35 year limitation represents a lower cost to the Omaha System for those members having more than 35 years of State service by age 65.

Another change with regard to the State service annuity was the manner in which the funds are transferred from the State to the Omaha System to pay these annuities. For retirements occurring after the effective date of the amendments (October 23, 1967), the State transfers the commuted value (equivalent single sum) of the individual State service annuity to the Omaha System and then the payment of the monthly annuity to the retired member is the School District's responsibility.

In 1967 the eligibility provisions for the pre-retirement survivors' annuity and the vested retirement rights were changed, reducing the service required from 25 years to 20 years and thereby granting these options to a larger number of employees.

Effective January 1, 1968, the federal Social Security taxable wage base was increased from $6,600 to $7,800 per year. This change became effective in the System's contribution and benefit formulas as of September 1, 1968.

1969 Amendments

The 80th Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 530 which amended the System effective August 11, 1969. The provisions of this bill improved the benefit structure of the System in two ways. The membership annuity credits (credits after 9/1/51) were increased approximately 10% and the Social Security wage base was "frozen" at the $7,800 level for purposes of calculating benefit credits and employee contributions.

By freezing the Social Security base, benefit credits and employee contributions for service after September 1, 1969 will not be reduced by virtue of future increases in the Social Security wage base. The System benefits will remain integrated with the Social Security program at the level provided by the $7,800 base.

1972 Amendments

During 1972, the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 1116 which amended the System. These amendments were to become effective for retirements occurring on or after September 1, 1972. The provisions of this bill improved the benefit structure of the System and liberalized the eligibility condition for qualification upon termination for the deferred vested retirement benefit.

The benefits of the System were improved by increasing the membership annuity credits (credits after 9/1/51) by approximately 20% over those in existence on September 1, 1971.

In order to be eligible upon resignation to elect a deferred vested service annuity, the years of creditable service was reduced from 20 years to 15 years.

1973 Amendments

The 1973 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 445 which created increases in the State service annuity of the Nebraska School Retirement System. LB 445 provides for (a) a State service annuity credit of $3.00 per month for each year of creditable service for all emeritus members and for all full time school employees who retire on or after July 1, 1973 and (b) for increases in the State service annuity for members who retired prior to July 1, 1973 based upon the difference between the Consumers Price Index on the date of retirement and July 1, 1973.

1976 Amendments

The 1976 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 994 which increased the membership annuity credits (credits after 9/1/51) by 20%.

The members' contributions were increased to 2.90% of compensation up to $7,800 per year plus 5.25% of salary in excess of that amount.

1979 Amendments

The 1979 Session of the Nebraska Legislature changed the mandatory retirement date from age 65 to age 70. Late retirement benefits are actuarially increased from what would have been payable at the normal retirement date.

1982 Amendments

The 1982 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 131 which made considerable changes to the System. LB 131 was approved by the Governor on February 19, 1982.

The most major revision in the System was to change the previous primary benefit formula from the step rate formula based on each year of salary to a final average compensation formula. The primary benefit formula became 1.5% of final average compensation for each year of creditable service not in excess of 30. Final average compensation was then defined to be 1/36 of the total compensation received during the three fiscal years of highest compensation. Also, the creditable service not in excess of 30 years was allowed to continue to accrue after the fiscal year in which the employee attains age 65. In addition, the State service annuity offset of $1.50 per year of creditable service was removed with respect to the final average compensation formula. The prior provisions of the System were retained as a minimum benefit, recognizing creditable service for those provisions through the earlier of the date of retirement or August 31, 1983.

Another major revision in the System was to change the step rate formula for employee contributions to a level 4.90% of compensation. In addition, the provision entitling the School District to receive refunds of its own contributions equal to the contributions refunded to employees was removed.

The early retirement date was liberalized. Previously an employee needed to have either 35 years of creditable service or to have attained age 60 with 25 years of creditable service. Now an employee can retire early if he has at least 10 years of creditable service and has attained age 55.

The actuarial equivalent of the annuity payable at the end of the fiscal year in which the employee attains age 65 was changed in the following two ways:

1. for employees retiring before age 62, the monthly formula retirement annuity is a reduced amount based on the actuarial equivalent of the annuity deferred to the employee's 62nd birthday. If retirement is at age 62 or later, there is no actuarial reduction. Previously there was an actuarial reduction, based on the benefit deferred to age 65, for any retirement before age 65.

2. For employees retiring on or after age 65, the monthly formula retirement annuity is to be based on total years of creditable service (not in excess of 30) and the employee's entire compensation history at date of retirement. Consequently, for retirements after the fiscal year in which the employee attains age 65 there is no longer an actuarial increase from the benefit available at the normal retirement date.

The eligibility provision to elect a deferred vested service annuity upon resignation was changed from 15 years of creditable service to 10 years.

1983 Amendments

The 1983 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 488 which created benefit increases effective September 1, 1983 for members having retired before February 21, 1982. The amount of benefit increase was limited to the smaller of:

1. The percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for all Urban consumers from the effective date of retirement to June 30, 1983 applied to benefits being paid and

2. The sum of $1.50 per month for each year of creditable service and $1.00 per month for each completed year of retirement from the effective date of retirement to June 30, 1983, actuarially adjusted for joint and survivor elections.

1985 Amendments

The 1985 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 215 which removed the 30 year limit on years of service used in the benefit formula, provided for vesting after five years of service rather than ten years, and reduced the eligibility period for disability from ten years of service to five years of service.

LP215 also provided for the employer "pick up" of employee contribution under IRC 414(h), thereby allowing employee contributions to be made on a pre-tax basis.

Unisex factors are now being used for determining early retirement reductions and actuarial equivalents for joint and survivor optional benefits.

1986 Amendments

The 1985 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 1048 which granted increases in benefits for most retirees to reflect cost-of-living increases over the last several years. The increases ranged up to a maximum of 10.5%.

1987 Amendments

A "window of opportunity" was created for the buy-in or buy-back of service credits for participants qualifying for that right.

1989 Amendments

LB 237 was enacted by the 1989 Session of the Nebraska Legislature and provided: annual benefit accruals of 1.65% of final average compensation (up from 1.50%), unreduced benefits if a member retires with 35 or more years of service, a five year certain and life thereafter annuity as the normal form of benefit (instead of just a life annuity), employee contributions of 5.8% of pay (up from 4.9%), and increased benefits to retirees (the increases ranged up to 9.0%). There were some other changes as a result of this bill, but none that had a direct actuarial cost impact.

1992 Amendments

The 1992 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 1001 which increased annual benefit accruals from 1.65% of final average compensation to 1.70%, and increased benefits to retirees (3% increase per year of retirement, not exceeding 9% total increase), a change in the preretirement joint and survivor option to allow it to become effective automatically after 20 years of service, and allowed employees to "buy-in" their time with other public school systems by means of a tax-deferred rollover of their refund from that System.

1995 Amendments

The 1995 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB505 which increased annual benefit accruals from 1.70% to 1.80% of final average compensation. It also provided for unreduced retirement benefits when the sum of age and service equals or exceeds 85 (still maintaining the age 55 minimum), and reduced early retirement reductions to .25% per month prior to age 62. Early retirement at 84, 83, or 82 points is also allowed with a maximum reduction of 3%, 6% and 9% respectively. Employee contributions were increased to 6.3% of pay. The bill also provided for a one time increase to current retirees of 3% per year since retirement (not to exceed 9%), or if larger, 90% restoration of the purchasing power of their original pension. There are other changes resulting from this bill, which are not included since they did not have a direct actuarial impact. One change with no actuarial impact but worth noting is the provision for employer "pick up" of employee contributions to the System used to buy in outside service, pursuant to Section 414(h) of the Internal Revenue Code.

1998 Amendments

The 1998 Session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB497 which increased annual benefit accruals from 1.80% to 1.85% of final average compensation. The bill also provided for a one time increase to current retirees of 3% per year since retirement (not to exceed 9%) and provides an annual automatic cost of living adjustment, not greater than 1.5%, beginning January 1, 2000.

2000 Amendments and Cost of Living Adjustment

The 2000 session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB155 which increased accruals from 1.85% to 2.00% of final average compensation.

Pursuant to LB497, the OSERS Board and the Omaha School District Board authorized a 1.5% discretionary COLA beginning January 1, 2000 in addition to the automatic COLA.

2001 Amendments and Cost of Living Adjustment

The 2001 session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB711 which provided that certain members who previously left employment due to pregnancy could purchase their “lost” service. It also provided a post-retirement supplemental benefit to assist with medical costs. The supplement commences 10 years after retirement, beginning at $10 per month for each year retired and increasing by $10 each year to a maximum of $250 per month. For retirees with less than twenty years of service, the benefit is reduced proportionately. 

Additionally, the OSERS Board and the Omaha School Board authorized a discretionary COLA to restore full purchasing power, beginning January 1, 2001, in addition to the automatic COLA. 

2002 Cost of Living Adjustment

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2002. 

2003 Cost of Living Adjustment 

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2003. 

2004 Cost of Living Adjustment 

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2004.

2005 Cost of Living Adjustment 

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2005.

2006 Cost of Living Adjustment 

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2006.

2007 Amendment and Cost of Living Adjustment 

The 2007 session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted Section 79-9, 113 which changed the employee contribution rate from 6.30% of compensation to 7.30% and provided for an employer contribution equal 101% of the employee contribution rate.

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2007.

2008 Cost of Living Adjustment 

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2008.

2009 Amendment and Cost of Living Adjustment 

The 2009 session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted Legislative Bill 187 (LB 187), which increased the State's contribution from 0.7% to 1.0% of covered pay from July 1, 2009 to July 1, 2014.  On July 1, 2014 the State's contribution returns to 0.7%.  LB 187 also increased the employee contribution rate from 7.30% of compensation to 8.30%.  The School District's contribution is equal 101% of the employee contribution rate so the District's contribution rate increased from 7.373% of compensation to 8.383% as a result of the increase in the member contribution rate.

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2009.

2010 Cost of Living Adjustment 

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2010.

2011 Amendment and Cost of Living Adjustment

The 2011 session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted Legislative Bill 382 (LB 382), which increased the Member's contribution from 8.30% of compensation to 9.30%. The School District's contribution is equal to 101% of the employee contribution rate so the District's contribution rate increased from 8.383% of compensation to 9.393% as a result of the increase in the member contribution rate. LB 382 also extended the 1% of payroll contribution by the State from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2017.

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2011.

2012 Cost of Living Adjustment

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2012.

2013 Amendments and Cost of Living Adjustment

The 2013 session of the Nebraska Legislature enacted Legislative Bill 553 (LB 553), which increased the Member contribution rate from 9.30% of pay to 9.78% of pay. The School District's contribution is equal to 101% of the employee contribution rate so the District's contribution rate increased from 9.393% of pay to 9.878% of pay as a result of the increase in the member contribution rate. LB 553 also ended the scheduled decrease in the State contribution rate and instead increased the State contribution from 1.0% of pay to 2.0% of pay, effective July 1, 2014. LB 553 also created a new benefit structure for members hired on or after July 1, 2013. For these members, annual cost of living adjustments will be the lesser of 1.0% or CPI, and the final average compensation is defined as 1/60 of the total compensation received during the five fiscal years of highest compensation.

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2013.

2014 Cost of Living Adjustment

The automatic 1.5% COLA was granted beginning January 1, 2014.