Saturday, December 10, 2005

Paul Boyer's flaming letter to STRS Board president Bob Brown: THANK YOU, PAUL!

To: Dr. Robert Brown
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2005
Subject: Board

Dear Dr. Brown: It is very seldom that I write a letter such as this is going to be but I, along with many, many other STRS retirees are absolutely fed up with your actions since being appointed to the board, so here goes. We can hardly wait for the day when you will no longer be there. When you were appointed, we thought, as a retiree from OSU, you would stand up for all teacher retirees, but, boy, how mistaken we were. I do not expect to receive a reply from you because you have never answered any of our emails that I know of since you have been on the board.

At this stage of the game, since you were elected as chairman of the board, I will say that I believe you have been acting like a DICTATOR, making decisions on your own and calling up rules that we never heard of. Doesn't STRS board operate under Roberts Rules of Order? If not, it certainly should be bound by them. Where in the world did you pull up the rule that a substitute motion cannot be voted on unless four members first vote yes to allow it. What a shocker; you sure must have dug deep to find that with probably a lot of help from others. If there are any more rules like that, they should see the light of day now instead of being kept secret. I am sure you will never find that rule in Roberts Rules.

Then you abruptly recessed the meeting when you knew full well that Dennis Leone had another motion he wished to make.

Now, Dr. Brown, in my estimation, not only are you acting like a DICTATOR but in my opinion you are a TRAITOR to your class of members, the retirees, when you are one yourself. I am sure it will do no good for me to say this, BUT PLEASE RESIGN FROM THE BOARD AND GO BACK INTO YOUR LITTLE HIDEY HOLE.

Paul L. Boyer,
LIFE member, ORTA
LIFE member CORE
Retired since 1985

Jim Kimmel: Christmas decorations at Grinch Palace

John Curry: "I bet there is real GOLD in them there packages!!!!! How much did the trees and decorations cost???? Want to bet them spent the poinsettia money on them???"
Kathie Bracy: "I counted ten Christmas trees in that area; way too many to get all in one picture. They must have been artificial, as I couldn't smell any pine, and nobody was sneezing, and they were too perfect to be real. While the decorations were nice, they were not elaborate. I wonder if they store the trees someplace from year to year."
From: Jim Kimmel
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2005
Subject: Re: Merry Christmas?, Retirees

So who paid for the STRS Christmas trees and ersatz gifts beneath them ? How do non-Christian employees feel ? I hope STRS funds were not used for the decorations. They look "professional." I personally have no objections to Christmas trees but then I am not Jewish or Moslem. But I DO wonder who paid for all that and if it is indeed proper in an organization representing state money and all the teachers of all faiths in the State of Ohio. I think the Spirit of the Grinch is still there in spite of dismissal of the Head Grinch a few years ago and all the fancy decorations. I would hope the employees took some of their bonus money and paid for all the Christmas trees. I don't think most schools even allow Christmas trees in classrooms anymore. It is too bad in some ways but if they are not allowed in schools why in STRS ? Again, are WE paying for this ?
I know some wealthy people who have a decorator come in and set up Christmas trees in every room. A fellow teacher held our staff Christmas party at his palatial home one year. (He married a very rich if homely woman) I was amazed people even did that and even more amazed when he proudly told us what it all cost. As a Christian I set up my Christmas tree at home and don't need one at work (or in every room!). And can't AFFORD a professional tree "decoration team" anyway! I don't mean to sound like old Ebeneezer Scrooge but enough is certainly enough.

RH Jones: Employer remittance at OPERS

From: RH Jones
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2005
Subject: Employer Remittance at OPERS

To all:

In the OPERS publication OPERtunities, serving their benefit recipients, Fall 2005, page 5 mentions:

Employers will be required to remit contributions on a monthly basis rather than quarterly. This provision should help reduce late payment penalties and provides for adjustments to mitigate the adverse effect on employers.

My thinking is: If it's good for OPERS, it should be good for STRS OH. And it will also be good for the school district employers.
Both the STRS and the employer win. STRS wins by having the contribution to invest sooner, and the employer has reduced late penalties and mitigation of adverse effects.

RHJones, an STRS OH benefit recipient

CORE Meeting Minutes: December 8, 2005 meeting

The meeting was called to order by Tom Curtis. Advisory board members attending were Betty Bell (substitute scribe), Nancy Boomhower, Kathie Bracy, Chuck Chapman and Tom Curtis. The holiday rush and a winter storm warning lowered our attendance.

Dave Parshall sent a financial report stating that our legal fund has remained unchanged since last month. He also informed us that the link from the CORE website to Kathie Bracy’s blog is now working. Her blog has a very professional appearance and includes recent CORE/STRS emails and info of interest.

We have no exact date for the Damon/CORE meeting. A mid-January date is most likely. Dave Parshall is accepting questions for this meeting through December 15th at . There have been fewer attendees at this meeting for both CORE and STRS recently. Although no major changes have resulted from these meetings, it is one way of keeping our face in front of STRS. Two or three more CORE members on this committee would be appreciated. Contact Dave Parshall if interested.

A motion was made (Bracy/Chapman) to table the endorsement vote for Tom Hall as an active candidate for the STRS board until our January meeting. Mr. Hall was administering college exams today and couldn’t be with us. He hopes to join us at our next CORE meeting. OFT is endorsing a candidate(s) they have backed in the past. Mr. Hall is seeking endorsement from ORTA, but their decision hasn’t been made to date.

Mr. Lake will not be running in this election. We are awaiting OFT endorsements to see if we choose to back their candidate(s).

A vote is expected on the STRS non-investment staff lawsuit following the Public Speaks portion of the STRS Board meeting today. Note: The vote was 9 to 2 in favor of paying bonuses to the non-investment staff for the 2002 fiscal year. The cost of the lawsuit and the bonuses will be about $3M. However, there will be no bonuses for non-investment staff in the future. This program has been terminated.

Since the Buck Consultants study on the effect of SB 190 (88% benefit) will not be presented until the January 19th STRS Board meeting, no decision regarding additional investment staff for STRS can be made until then.

It was the consensus of those present that CORE not join the Coalition To Preserve Retirement Security. We have access to their thinking through the membership of STRS and OEA (both members). Tom Curtis will write them a letter explaining that we are a fledgling organization sympathetic with their cause, but with limited funds. The $1,000 annual membership fee would be prohibitive.

Tom Curtis reported that Sen Wachtmann is against grandfathering healthcare to those who retired with the promise of spousal subsidy because the program would cost money! Tom will still request grandfathering in his public speech today.

It was noted that the State Highway Patrol and the SERS each lease portions of their buildings. STRS should be able to do the same. The childcare center is operating $8,000 below the ’05-06 budget (as of September ’05). Budget for this fiscal year is $125,000. Our cost should be zero by FY ‘07-’08.

Two questions surfaced for which we would like definitive answers:

1. Can active employee contributions to STRS be raised without legislative action? What does the ORC require?

2. Can CORE endorse three candidates for the two open STRS Board seats?

Meeting adjourned with the best of holiday wishes for all.

Respectfully submitted,

Betty Bell
Substitute Scribe

Sidaway trial moved to January 18

New Info:
Date: 01/18/2006
Time: 10:30 am Judge: MAYNARD, W DWAYNE
(Franklin Co. Courthouse, Columbus)

Judi ___: Individual Insurance

From: Judi (last name not given)
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Subject: Individual Insurance

This is an example of what individual insurance may cost. My neighbor man said he was able to pay premiums for his wife until she got cancer. Then they sent a bill for something like $10,000 per month. Obviously they were unable to buy insurance. Don't be fooled. Teachers will not be able to afford indivdual insurance in the future if you spent all of your time in education and you have a wife or husband who was an educator and not in the private sector. YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE MEDICARE PART A & B AND IF YOU CANNOT PAY THE STRS PREMIUM YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE MEDICARE PART B OR D. That includes me, an educator with a wife or husband and a single educator. REMEMBER STRS WAS STARTED FOR EDUCATORS, NOT STAFF AND ASSOCIATE. IT'S MAIN PURPOSE IS TO PROVIDE BENEFITS AND HC FOR MEMBERS. IT IS APPARENT THAT OUR EMPLOYEES HAVE LOST SITE OF THIS OBJECTIVE, AS HAS OUR LAWYERS AND JUDGES WHO HAVE RULED FOR THE EMPLOYEES. WOULD THEY WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO GIVE ALL THE MONEY TO THE EMPLOYEES OF THEIR RETIREMENT SYSTEM AND LEAVE THE CRUMBS FOR THEM? IT SEEMS STRS IS LIVING A MARIE ANTOINETTE RE-INCARNATION.

While this is true the staff, CEO and Associates who we are paying to manage and guard our retirement benefits will be enjoying bonuses, perks and insurance that will allow them to care for themselves, their families and be able to sleep at night from no worry. With this kind of future, it is likely many members will face heart attacks and stokes from stress meaning more for bonuses and perks.



Jim Kimmel to John Curry: Are we going to have a health plan?

From: Jim Kimmel
Sent: Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Subject: Re: Are we going to have a health plan?

The question that needs to be asked is WHY health insurance costs and medical costs seem to be going up.

It is also interesting that STRS is apparently on the forefront of leading the pack when it comes to eliminating spousal subsidies. STRS is built on our money and supposedly has no "profit". In reality instead of "profit " for the management they have bonuses and perks. That is probably begging the question,though. On could understand Sears or P and G cutting benefits if bottom line is affected. But STRS apparently has its own bottom line which includes bonuses and excludes us- the owners!

Why are medical costs going up 20-30% or more a year ?

I always get the answer from my conservative business friends that new research and new discoveries are the reason. When you look at pharmacorporate profits though you wonder. If they only raised their prices proportionally to additional expenses caused by research costs and priced them to maintain a reasonable profit would not profits remain in the same approximate level ? Also does anyone know (probably not) the relationship of health insurance profits to claims ? Insurers guard their books more carefully than the CIA guards military secrets.

Of course health providers and health insurers are like two thieves (between whom there is little honor) who argue and fight until a turkey to pluck comes along. That victim is seniors with retirement money and a need for care. If an investigator with the proper training analyzed all this- profits, real costs to insurers, bonuses and salaries, benefits to executives and employees we would see why all this goes up so much each year.

As long as Governor Daft on up are in power you can forget any such study. Bush is the first president to have an MBA and he thinks on the narrow wavelength MBA training develops. And whenever ANYONE suggests that profits are too high or that regulations need to be enacted to make sure the free market does not careen out of control (it has)- there is an outcry similar to that heard when an adult takes loaded pistols away from 7 year olds. They just wanted to" play cowboy", after all- never mind hurting many people. Deregulation has been a license to steal, maim, and kill. I just hope soon that the adults take over for a while! Like maybe in 06 and 08 !

Jim K

Shirlee Zerkel to Damon Asbury: Thanks and questions about cost of HC for staff and family

From: Shirlee Zerkel
Sent: Friday, December 09, 2005
Subject: Thanks and questions!

Dear Mr. Asbury:

Thank you for sending the staff premium and benefits charts. I am a little behind on thanking you because my computer was down. I do have some questions concerning the information. What is the monthly cost to STRS for the 2006 single and family staff health care plan? What does STRS offer their staff in the area of dental for all I see in the United Health Care Chart is the accidental dental which is the usual. Do you still offer them an optional dental plan paid for by STRS and if so what is the cost to STRS a month for both the single and family dental plan?

Thank you,
Shirlee Zerkel

Molly Janczyk, Tom Mooney: OFT candidates for next STRS Board election

From: Molly Janczyk
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Subject: Re: Tom Mooney: OFT Candidates

Tom, Thank you for letting me know. Can you email who the candidates are and relay their qualifications, please.

From Tom Mooney

Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2005


OFT EC made a decision Sat. on two candidates, but one the candidates is a member of another organization (not OEA) and asked that we hold our announcement until his organization votes on endorsement. We hope that will occur this Sat. Dec. 10. Our Exec. Com. decided not to hold up the process and interview Tom Hall. He certainly seems to be qualified, but we felt we had two strong candidates that we know well and have worked with in the past. That means a lot to our EC members. I am also emailing Mr. Hall.

I hope you will like the two candidates, and would like to arrange an opportunity for you and other interested members to meet them.

Sorry for not relaying this earlier. I had to go out of town Sat. afternoon, and I'm just getting back to email.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Press release November 2005: Cordray Has Support of 75 of 88 County Party Chairs

November 29, 2005
Contact: Chad Riley. 614-487-3526
Statewide Steering Committee
Today, Richard Cordray, Democratic Candidate for State Treasurer, released a Statewide County Chair Steering Committee list and announced that he has the personal support of 75 out of 88 Democratic County Party Chairs. Cordray said that "I am proud to have such widespread support, in both rural and urban counties, all over the State of Ohio."
Cordray also noted that his Steering Committee is headed by Mary Ellen Withrow, former treasurer of Ohio, along with John J. Gilligan, former Ohio Governor, and Tom Ferguson, former Auditor of Ohio.
Bill Anthony, Franklin County Democratic Party Chair, said "It is no surprise that Rich has broad support around the State. We feel confident that he is the right candidate to restore sanity to how the State handles the public's money, just as he has done a great job for the citizens here in Franklin County."
Charlie Harnetty, Perry County Democratic Party Chair, said "I've known Rich for years. He's a personal friend and I think highly of him. His honesty and genuine character makes him a strong candidate for the Ohio Treasury."
I heard Cordray speak 9/16/05 to an OEA-R group and was much impressed with his knowledge, experience, sincerity and apparent honesty and competency. I wish he were governor. He looks about 21; very open and down-to-earth. Kathie Bracy

Press release November 2002: Richard Cordray Union endorsements

Press Release
November 21, 2002
Cordray Earns Union Endorsements
Today, Richard Cordray, Democratic Candidate for State Treasurer, announced that he has earned endorsements from the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, the Building Laborers Local 310 in Cleveland, and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189 in Columbus. Cordray said that "I am proud to have support form their leaders and members, and I look forward to working shoulder to shoulder with them to ensure the safety of our money, including at the Bureau of Workers Compensation."
Loree Soggs, Executive Secretary of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, expressed his "pleasure" that the Council "has voted to endorse your candidacy for election to State Treasurer in 2006" on behalf of our Executive Board and our affiliated Local Unions."
John Kilbane, Business Manager of the Building Laborers Local 310 in Cleveland, said that "The leadership and membership are proud to endorse Rich Cordray for State Treasurer." Darrell Gammell, Business Manager of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189 in Columbus, said that "Our membership unanimously endorsed Rich because of his strong record as Franklin County Treasurer. He has done an excellent job and I feel that he is the best candidate to bring fiscal responsibility to the Ohio Treasurer's Office.

Article: Charter school owes money; Second straight year Rhea Academy (Dayton) has 'finding for recovery'

From Dennis Leone
They are not, John. This is probably the best thing Bob Slater has done in his career. When the charter schools first started appearing, Bob approached the State Dept of Ed and requested that the 14% and 10% payments go directly to STRS instead of the charter schools. In a shocker, the Dept agreed. In the 611 Ohio school districts, the Dept sends each school district its total money, then the treasurer pay the necessary amounts to STRS. Can you imagine how many charter schools simply would NOT have paid STRS, and they would have had a million reasons not to do so.

From John Curry
December 9, 2005

Dennis, this is good news for STRS and retirees. You bring up an interesting point. I wonder if there are current or failed Ohio charter schools who are in arrears to Ohio STRS? John

From Dennis Leone
The most important thing John, is that Bob Slater got the 14% and 10% contributions for STRS from the Rhea Academy, irrespective of the problems they are having. It's just like the charter school in Toledo that didn't pay all of its teachers.........but STRS first got the required 10% for each one of them.


Charter school owes money
Second straight year Rhea Academy has 'finding for recovery'

By Scott Elliott

Dayton Daily News(12-09-05)

DAYTON Dayton charter school operator Monica Rhea again owes more than $30,000 for school expenses she cannot document, the second straight year the state auditor has leveled "finding for recovery" against her.
In all, Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery's office found $31,164 in operating expenses it could not verify were used for legitimate school functions during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2003. That equates to about 5 percent of the school's total operating expenses. Thursday, Rhea read a statement to reporters disputing the auditor's report and declined to answer questions.

"Rhea Academy, the governing board, the employees and the contractors dispute the state of Ohio auditor's findings for recovery as being factually incorrect," she said.

The audit was critical of the accounting methods and management used at the school located at 113 E. Third St. in Dayton, citing several instances in which important decisions were made without the required approval from the school's governing board.

A spokeswoman for the auditor said the school's books were declared "unauditable" due to lack of documentation and that auditors needed subpoenas to obtain some financial data.

"I remain strongly committed to school choice," Montgomery said in a statement. "But if charter schools are to remain a viable option for our children, we must make certain they are accountable for public dollars. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with Rhea Academy."

In 2004, the Ohio auditor issued a finding for recovery against Rhea, the school's founder and superintendent, for $33,000 for checks she wrote but could not document, money transfers from the academy's bank account to her personal account and other cash withdrawn or signed off on without documentation.

An auditor's office spokeswoman said the past debt was resolved, but she could not provide details.

This time, more than $7,000 worth of school expenses had no invoice or supporting documents, including $4,958 for a life insurance policy on Monica Rhea. There also was $9,152 in debit card spending for travel, including expenses for trips to California and Great Britain and $2,596 in debit card expenses without proof that those purchases were school-related.

Patricia Hughes is the director overseeing the school for its sponsor, the Columbus-based Buckeye Community Hope Foundation. She said the school has a new treasurer and her organization is monitoring the finances.

"We're doing bimonthly financial reviews as required by contract with the Ohio Department of Education," she said.

Charter schools are tax supported, tuition free public schools independently run by private operators. With about 85 students in kindergarten to 10th grade, Rhea Academy will receive about $567,000 in tax dollars this school year.

Concerns were raised about Rhea's financial problems shortly after the school opened seven years ago. The state board of education approved Rhea's charter application in 1999 and paid her $300,000 in state money, but was unaware she had closed a personal bankruptcy case just two months earlier and agreed to sell her car and other property to raise 10 percent of the $56,000 she owed creditors.

The state has since tightened its screening and background check system for charter school applicants.

Rhea said at the time that her personal financial troubles had no bearing on her ability to run the school.

Last month, Rhea paid $16,000 in back taxes on six real estate properties on the same day the Dayton Daily News called her with questions about the debt.

William Phillis: Betty Montgomery on privatization of education

To: Superintendents, Principals, Treasurers and other interested persons

From: William L. Phillis

Re: Candidate Montgomery on privatization of education

Date: December 9, 2005

"Choice", when applied to public education, is usually the buzzword for privatization of public education. Some candidates for Governor are attempting to out-"choice" each other. According to the December 8 issue of Gongwer News Service, State Auditor Betty Montgomery said that one of her gubernatorial campaign planks would include a new K-16 school "choice" program. In a speech to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Candidate Montgomery said, "I'm not just talking about charter schools in the K-12 arena. I'm talking about giving families real choice when it comes to the entire education continuum. I'm talking about tuition dollars that follow students to the schools of their choice from kindergarten through college."

This approach to the provision for education is antithetical to the public common school system. The common good, in this approach, is surrendered solely to the individual benefit-to the market forces where winners and loser abound.

Visit our website at and download the

Educate Ohio petition and instructions

Report from STRS following December Board meeting

December 9, 2005


During its December meeting, the Health Care Committee of the Retirement Board received a report of the results of the STRS Ohio and Health Care Advocates for STRS (HCA) Health Care Member Education and Engagement Campaign. This campaign had two goals: (1) educate active members about the economic realities of health care costs and (2) gauge support for a possible legislative initiative that would increase member and employer contributions to provide a dedicated revenue stream for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program.

During the past two months, more than 10,000 STRS Ohio members have been actively engaged in the campaign. A significant amount of data was collected and analyzed from the 7,100 postcard surveys, 595 online surveys and 713 meeting surveys returned to STRS Ohio. In addition, another 1,052 active members participated in telephone surveys. The data showed that the information shared by STRS Ohio and the HCA increased members¹ recognition of the need to save for health care. Secondly, member feedback indicated there is majority support for creating a dedicated revenue stream for health care through the increase of member and employer contributions over a five-year period.

Based on the results of the campaign, and with continued support by the membership represented by the HCA, the board committee instructed STRS Ohio staff to begin drafting a legislative proposal plus a plan for continued member education and engagement.


Earlier this year, the Retirement Board authorized the executive director to contract with Aon/McLagan to conduct a study to review and advise on the competitiveness of the compensation and benefits that STRS Ohio provides to its associates. The study was to provide an objective, third-party review of the system¹s total compensation and benefits package that is provided to recruit, motivate and retain associates.

In presenting the results of its study to the board during the December meeting, representatives from Aon/McLagan first explained the methodology behind their findings, noting the following data was used for comparison:

• Investment Associates -- 17 leading public pension funds and approximately 200 private sector financial service firms, plus a 50%/50% blend of the two benchmarks as a third point of reference.

• Non-Investment Associates -- Competitive compensation data from compensation studies that reflect pay rates for the Columbus area, plus national compensation pay rates with applied geographical differential.

• Benefits -- 10 central Ohio companies/organizations (50%/50% mix of public and private employers) plus national employee benefits surveys.

For STRS Ohio Investment associates, the desired pay positioning for total pay (salary plus Performance-Based Incentive [PBI] Awards) is the 25th percentile of private firms, while salaries should be at the 75th percentile of other leading public funds. The report showed that total pay for Investment associates actually falls:

• Below the 25th percentile of private sector firms;

• Approximates the 75th percentile of public funds; and

• Equals the 25th percentile of the public/private blend.

For STRS Ohio¹s non­Investment associates, the desired pay positioning for total pay (salary only as non-Investment associates are ineligible for PBIs) is midway between the median and 75th percentile of the comparison groups.

The report showed that total pay for non-Investment associates approximates the market median. However, pay generally becomes less competitive for higher-level positions when compared to both base salaries and total cash compensation offered in the market.

STRS Ohio has also stated that it wants to maintain a strong benefits program, but not an industry-leading program. The report data shows that:

• The benefits program meets the desired positioning for all STRS Ohio associates. It falls between prevalent and above-average practices.

• The structure of the overall package of benefits is reasonably positioned and serves as an important anchor in the total compensation and benefits program.

At January¹s Retirement Board meeting, Aon/McLagan representatives will be present to review their recommendations in greater detail. The staff will also provide information about cost implications to the board.


For the past 12 months, a team of associates from STRS Ohio¹s Information Technology Services, Member Benefits and Finance areas has focused its attention on the system¹s pension management computer system, known as Legacy. This system has been in existence for 12 years, but has become obsolescent, complex and increasingly expensive to operate. Consequently, it was determined that the best and most cost-effective solution for STRS Ohio was to replace the system. After extensive review and evaluation of several options, the staff recommended -- and the Retirement Board concurred -- that the Legacy system should be replaced with the Vitech V3 system. This system will manage all benefits processing and payments and employer payroll reporting for STRS Ohio, as well as the call tracking system that monitors STRS Ohio¹s Member Services Center and the electronic workflow system that is used to manage thousands of member documents. While upfront costs will be incurred by STRS Ohio to purchase and implement the Vitech V3 system over the next three years, it is expected that the system will ultimately result in less annual operating costs to STRS Ohio due to the need for fewer staff and outside consultants to support the system. Over the next three years, STRS Ohio will pay Vitech $13.2 million for the purchase of its software and implementation of the system. Up to an additional $6.3 million will be spent for additional project elements including hardware, other supportive software, maintenance fees and staff training. The new system will be up and running by October 2008.


The Retirement Board approved changing the annual interest rate paid on member withdrawals to 2% for members with less than three years of service credit and to 3% for members with three or more years of service credit, effective Jan.1, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2006. These changes put STRS Ohio¹s rates more in line with market interest rates that have declined significantly since the percentage rates for member withdrawals were last changed in 1998.


The Retirement Board approved the following retirements and investment transactions:

• 24 disability retirements were granted.

• 71 active members were approved for service retirement; 60 inactive retirements were approved.

• In November, fixed-income purchases totaled $864.8 million, domestic equity purchases totaled $608.6 million and real estate purchases totaled $22.2 million.


Retirement system legislation on committee schedule

H.B. 272 remains under review of the House Financial Institutions, Real Estate and Securities Committee as amendments to the bill are drafted. The bill had originally pertained solely to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Once the committee adopts the amendments, the bill will contain provisions relating to all five public retirement systems. Changes being sought by STRS Ohio include administrative changes, as well as changes suggested by Ohio Retirement Study Council staff and approved by the Council relative to medical savings accounts and reemployed retiree health care. The bill is being sponsored by Rep. Michelle Schneider (R-Madiera).

Medical Mutual Health Advocacy Program Pilot discussed with HCA

Staff and representatives from the Health Care Advocates for STRS (HCA) met with Medical Mutual to discuss results of the first phases of the Health Advocacy Pilot, a wellness initiative underwritten by Medical Mutual. The pilot population includes about 1,600 STRS Ohio Medical Mutual enrollees who reside in Cuyahoga County. Using the combination of a health risk assessment tool and health screenings, the pilot is designed to help enrollees identify their risks for certain diseases and make lifestyle and behavior choices to improve their health. Staff and the HCA representatives discussed possible next steps of the pilot, which entails Medical Mutual undertaking interventions to assist pilot participants in making lifestyle and behavior changes.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

George Doyle: Ode (Owed?) to the Retiree

Some teachers once taught
For a full thirty years.
They looked forward to retirement
And were grinning ear to ear.

They went down to Columbus
And filled in the blank
Which promptly sent their
Checks to the bank.
Then came the section on health care, you see.
You won’t have to worry, we’ll cover the fees.

They returned to their homes, and one got ill.
He sent in the prescription, but couldn’t get the pill.
They argued you didn’t send in the right form,
And now you must wait until our policy is reformed.

The teacher then argued you promised me much,
But now I must choose between medicine and such?
I think you should keep your agreement with me,
For I have always been honest with you, don’t you see?

I taught thirty years with conditions a mess, and
I faithfully paid my dues to STRS.
And now that I need my benefits more,
I find when I checked no one was minding the store.
They spent like a spendthrift for things not needed
And now the health care fund is nearly depleted.

We argued and argued until our throats were sore,
But STRS wouldn’t listen so we had to form CORE.
OEA called us names and refused to give in,
So we ran two candidates that we knew could win.
We launched a campaign and got them elected
And the OEA boys were promptly ejected.

Now that they’ve seen that we don’t stand alone,
We’ll eventually win because of
Lazarus and Leone.

"The Long Wait" (for restoration of lost benefits)

John Curry: Merry Christmas, retirees, from YOUR retirement system; but where's the donkey?

Dec. 8, 2005

Thanks to Kathie Bracy, we have these Christmas pix from the STRS Palace taken today. The non investment employees will get their Christmas present in the form of a bonus for simply doing their jobs. Jim Petro's office will get its Christmas in the form of a quarter of a million dollars (actually $263,000) of our money for ineffectively fighting against the law suit that awarded these bonuses. Could those be lumps of coal under the trees for the spouses of STRS retirees who were trashed by the former STRS board due to their lack of grandfathering? I see only two wise men (in the bottom pix). Those are Leone and Lazares. There must be a shortage of wise men as at least one is missing. Wonder where the donkey is? I'm sure there's no shortage of them in this building- they must be at the public feed trough.

-- John, a Proud CORE member
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa

Dennis Leone to Paul Boyer: STRS Board action today (12/08/05) on proposed final settlement agreement on bonus lawsuit issue

From: Dennis Leone
To: Paul Boyer
Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2005 8:38 PM
Subject: Final Settlement Agreement Vote

Paul -- in answer to your question, here is what happened at the STRS Board meeting today regarding the proposed final settlement agreement on the bonus lawsuit issue:

After there was a motion and second to approve the final settlement agreement (which included a provision that the STRS Board also pay the employees' PERS contribution associated with the bonus checks) I made a substitute (addendum) motion that called for the Board to first pursue legal remedies against Herb Dyer and the Board members who approved the bonuses in 2002 (for fiscal year 2003). I stated my conviction that the bonuses were contrary to the spirit of 3307.15 and the pension fund should not bear the financial responsibility of the settlement that was caused by the misconduct of others. John Lazares seconded my motion.

Board Chair Bob Brown and Vice Chair Connie Ramser then objected to my substitute motion and invoked a seldom used board policy that apparently says that such an amendment cannot be approved unless one-third of the board membership agrees to even vote on the amendment. So, in other words, the first vote was whether at least 4 board members would agree to ALLOW my substitute motion to be voted on. Get it?

The vote was 7-4 against allowing my substitute motion to receive a vote -- but the 4 votes meant that the Board WOULD have to take a formal vote on my substitute motion. The 4 who voted in favor of my motion getting a chance were Lazares, Buser, Chapman and me.

Then my substitute motion failed on a 9-2 vote, with only Lazares and me voting for it. Fisher and Meyers both stated that they considered my language (about the previous Board being in violation of 3307.15) offensive.

When the board voted on the original motion to approve the final settlement agreement, the vote was 7-4, with Lazares, Buser, Ramser and me voting no.

The main reason the 7 voted in favor of the settlement was their concern that STRS would incur additional costs at the appellate court level (with no guarantee of winning) as well as the concern that the employees might succeed in punitive claims as well. My motion was to pursue another option first. I also stated that I disagreed with the conclusions of the Board's legal counsel.

Bob Brown recessed the meeting before I had a chance to make another motion, which was for the Board NOT to pay Jim Petro the $263,000 bill he intends to give us for the legal representation STRS received.

That's what happened.

Dennis Leone

From: Paul Boyer
To: Dennis Leone
Thursday, December 08, 2005 7:49 PM
Subject: vote

Dennis, I assume that you and John were two of the four that voted against the final agreement on the lawsuit. Are you at liberty to tell me who the other two were?

Also, did you try today to make your motion not to pay the attorney general for his lawyer fees or does that come tomorrow?

Whatever your reply, tell me if I can circulate it.


Tom Curtis' speech to STRS 12/08/05: A plea for grandfathering of Health Care benefits

Good afternoon board members, executive staff and guests. My name is Thomas Curtis. I am speaking today on behalf of CORE, all STRS retirees who are wondering what their financial future will hold for them and their non-teaching spouse and myself. I am an STRS disability retiree with 27 years of service. I am a life member of CORE, ORTA, Stark Co. RTA and the AARP.

After starting college, my father, also an educator suggested that I too consider training to become a teacher. His 3 incentives for recommending such were that one, I could retire after 30 years of service. He said that would qualify me for two more benefits that were second to none and very important for a sound financial future. He told me about the State Teachers Retirement System and how it was a system set-up by educators to provide a guaranteed pension and a health care benefit for both a teacher and their spouse for the rest of their lives. That is exactly what he and my mother received.

I asked him who would pay for this? He said my employer and I would be making contributions into the STRS throughout my career, which would in turn fund these two benefits.

I would hear that same information from many others in the profession during my career. I would hear that promise from our local and state OEA union representatives, each time we renewed a contract. No, we were not getting much of a raise, but we were reminded of what was in store for us and our spouse when we retired, the benefit of a guaranteed pension and health care coverage second to none, for the rest of our lives.

In my mind, the promises of these two benefits were what kept me in education. The discipline in my school continued to erode and the students I was getting placed in my shop classes were inattentive and had little desire to learn how to work with their hands. Behavior modification became the daily task. I found myself in a shop full of students with uncontrollable behavior problems and probably the highest liability of any teacher in my high school. The continued stress of that liability caused me to leave my profession 3 years earlier then I had planned.

Near the end of my career I figured up what I would make at the end of 30 years. It was going to be just a few dollars more then one million dollars. WOW! Did I believe that to be a good wage, not really compared to what I could have made in industry? However, the retirement benefit "carrot" that was held out in front of every educator was what we believed we would have at retirement.

After meeting with an STRS retirement counselor and understanding what I would receive if I chose to retire, I made the decision to retire.

In 1998, I was thankfully granted a disability retirement pension and the health care benefits I had been told about and read about in STRS literature for my entire career.

And now for the rest of the story. No sooner had I retired, when I noticed my health care costs started to rise and the rest is history. In 2004 the spousal subsidy I was told by the STRS counselor I would have for the rest of my life, was totally taken away, as it was for many other retirees in my same situation. You see my wife was not a teacher, so we had to start paying 100% of the cost of her health care insurance. That is because those of us that had already committed to retirement were not considered for a "grandfathering" of the benefits we were told we would have at retirement. That is exactly what OPERS has done for their retirees and I believe others have done so as well.

Retirees are now paying for health care insurance we thought we paid for through our contributions throughout our career, only to find we have to pay for it again. We are now paying for health care coverage for those that will benefit from the increased index changes in SB190, which we do not benefit from, if we retired prior to January 2000.

So, I am asking each of you board members to please consider a "grandfathering" of the health care benefits for those of us retirees that were promised such and then had them revoked and asked to pay for them again. Thank you for your consideration of a grandfathering of benefits for those in much need of them.

Robert Hudson Jones' speech to STRS 12/08/05: Do Not Fear

Robert Hudson Jones
STRS Speech of 12/08/05
Do Not Fear
All of you in this audience as Americans are especially entrusted with the future of our country. Here in Ohio, whether you are an STRS employee, board member, active or retired teacher, or a media reporter, you need to support increased funding for public education all the way from preschool through college and beyond. Ladies and gentlemen, as an educator, I have visited 16 different countries, some more than once, and can speak with authority that the well being of our country sets with the value that we put on public tax supported education.

As part of teacher compensation, the STRS OH has traditionally led the nation in offering a quality retirement for educators. Ohio was once an economically leading state in our United States of America. This leadership can be restored if we are not afraid; not afraid of those who would run the public schools “on the cheap;” not afraid of those who disregard schooling; and not afraid of promoting education as a stimulus to the economy. It is the right thing to do.

And, yes, securing our STRS by the strong backing of the 2.5% employer, and the 2.5% employee, rate of contribution for HC/Rx, -- which would free up funds for a Compounded COLA, fully paid eye and dental care insurance, and other expenses at the STRS – is a start in the right direction. Additionally, there will be an increase in funds to attract the best qualified employees into our STRS family.

And, once again, the best of the college graduates will be most certainly attracted to education as a profession. Therefore, the consequential rise in an educated Ohioan will raise the economic level of the economy to become the envy of every other state in the union. And, without a doubt, the rest will surely follow us. An undereducated population of Ohio, and our nation, is not an option. For our national defense those in the private commercial sector must realize this, as well. We should not be afraid to educate them.

A gubernatorial candidate, Bryan Flannery, in his campaign speech mentioned: Ireland as having realized the value of education and their economy has quickly risen to be the number two economy in Europe. And, in Asia, will Japan, China, S. Korea and India trump our economy in the near future? China’s intelligence agents just acquired our most advanced weaponry secrets for ten years in advance of now. My friends of education, are we about to lose it? I can quote my fellow Korean War veterans in saying:
Freedom is not Free.

As you can see, we have no choice but to be powerfully, aggressively without fear in moving forward in our quest for better employer funding.

Respectfully submitted by:

Robert Hudson Jones, A proud Concerned Ohio Retired Educator (CORE) Legal Committee, SummitCRTA Legislative CMTE Mem., Life Mem. Of ORTA, AEA, NEOEA-R, OEA/OFT, OEA-R, NEA and NEA-R

Tom Curtis: Call for Ohio's teachers to end blackmail of retirement funds

From: Tom Curtis
Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hello Geo,
I keep hoping the newly retired will get involved, but most people I receive correspondence from are not those people. Educators have just allowed the OEA and STRS to take care of everything for us, believing that would be done in an efficient manner. Boy have we been wrong!
On the other hand, we were not made aware that there were so many problems in both of those organizations until 2003. Do you think we would have been more interested if we had known that problems with health care and pension shortages were looming heavily in our immediate futre? I will readily admit that I never gave it a thought that the STRS would not have the necessary funds to meet our health care and pension needs. I guess we shall see if the actives are willing to increase their contribution rates to help provide for the funds needed to continue both pensions and health care.
Take care,
Tom Curtis
From: George Doyle
Wednesday, December 07, 2005

You and I both know that active teachers depend on information from their locals and the locals get their information from OEA, so there you go! That's why active teachers do not seem to care much about their retirement. Just wait until some of these apathetic people retire, then you's hear all kinds of complaining and want the retired to take some action to help them!

From: Tom Curtis
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Subject: 120705 Canton Repository; Teacher's Pension To Consider Law Suit Settlement; Curry

Helloooo Out There,
This is truly pathetic to think that educators in Ohio will sit back and allow this sort of blackmail to continue with our retirement funds.
Come on educators, show you actually have some backbone and get behind those of us that have been trying to stop this type of rape of our retirement funds for three years now. CORE has been there, where are you?
Educators certainly never received any bonuses for anything and had to complete job targets year after year. This is simply another left over gifting of money from our previous executive director, who by the way was awarded a $550,000 severance package to step down. I am beginning to know how the Lone Ranger must have felt!
It is no wonder our education system in Ohio is in trouble. The people that work in the system are not willing to get involved and fight for what should be. Most educators are willing to pay dues to the OEA, thinking someone else will do it. Hello, the OEA is responsible for all of this mess. Please wake up and find out what you can do to support CORE.
Tom Curtis

Judi (no last name) and Nancy Hamant: Replace Damon

From Nancy Hamant
December 8, 2005

Call for Damon Asbury to be replaced. His contract is coming up for review sometime in 2006.

Remember,Dr. Asbury, was hired by the incumbent (Dyer era) STRS Board without a state or national search for the best possible candidate. After Dyer was "censured" by the Ohio Legislature and forced to resign, the STRS Board went on record stating that a national search would be conducted for STRS Executive Director. Which the STRS Board did not do, saying they were saving the "cost" of a national search.

STRS needs a strong leader whose education is in investments, whose ethics respect STRS's members and keeps ORC and fiduciary responsibilities as his/her main goal, whose interaction with employees is fair and equitable but does not promote a climate of entitlement.

From: Judi
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Subject: Replace Damon

Until we have a new man in charge who has our best interests at heart, nothing will change! It is apparent that the staff feeds the material to the Board and the CEO (who I personally think is involved) and the staff is running the show. I find it unbelievable that real estate can be put in partnerships with no mention of our STRS as owner and nothing is being done. I don't care about the explanation! Until we have someone at the top who can get into this information personally, we are dead in the water!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tom Curtis to Ralph Lloyd: More troops needed on the Front Line

From: Tom Curtis
To: Ralph Lloyd
Sent: December 07, 2005
Subject: 120705 Curtis Resp To Lloyd; Asbury Resp; Curtis To Asbury; No Response To 2 Emails

Hello Ralph,

Everything you voiced a concern about has been taken directly to Damon and the board by others and repeatedly by me. The bottom line is that they really do not care what you and I think or want. The STRS management will do whatever they want and justify it and get approval by the majority of the board by simply saying, that is the way we have always done it and only these few malcontents complain about it. That is with the exception of John Lazares and Dennis Leone, who in most cases, vote against much of this kind of stuff most of the time. They only represent 2 people out of 11.

Ralph; please try to understand this. The only way any of this crap will ever end is if more educators get actively involved and voice their opinions both by email, snail mail and in person at the STRS board meetings. Many retirees write me and voice their opinions like I have some clout at the STRS. I alone, or the combined effort of those people active in CORE, do not constitute enough members to cause concern or alarm within the STRS management or board. The management constantly pays to have surveys completed by the membership. Those surveys indicate that the majority of the STRS membership is very satisfied with how the STRS is being operated, how the health care is being handled, etc., etc.

Those surveys are placed before the board and used to negate what those few of use that have regularly been there and continually push for changes to be made. In their minds, we are nobodies besides a handful of malcontents and certainly not the majority.

Consequently, you can write me all you want. If I have time to respond I will. If all you do is write and complain without doing anything else, I will eventually stop responding to you. I get no pay for my efforts for the past three years I have traveled to Columbus, sometimes two and even three times per month. I was initially there because I did not get what I was promised in health care benefits. I have stayed active because no one will receive health care benefits in the future if we do not get this mess turned around. That takes active involvement. There comes a time when you have to step forward and become proactive and be there to speak up for yourself. Everyone seems to have a reason why they cannot attend board meetings, or why they do not themselves write the board and management staff. The bottom line is that your lack of active involvement does not help our cause and does not show support for the Dennis Leone's and John Lazares', we have helped to get elected.

When we do find another qualified candidate, then someone such as yourself comes along and discounts that person for something in their resume and wants me to explain such. I don’t want to be callous, but get real and get involved. I do not have the time to bring you up to date and justify everything that you ask about, simply because you do not choose to be more proactive. Just why is it that you feel perfectly welcome to write and complain to others and me in CORE, but we fail to see you at any meetings or at the STRS to speak to the board? I show only you and four other members in CORE from Carroll County. Why can we not get a larger number of members in your area? Could you help us out with that effort? CORE needs more support. We cannot keep this up forever, simply because other are willing to let someone else do it. Please, get involved and be part of the solution and find out first hand what is going on. We need bodies, not just voices asking questions that take time to explain.

Take care,

Tom Curtis

From: Ralph Lloyd
Sent: December 07, 2005
I have a problem with Damon Asbury's comment about the board meeting in 2004.
He says that the STAFF reported an actuarial study by their EMPLOYED consultants, reviewing contributions vs. pension and healthcare cost for 5 or fewer years was a wash. That was before the healthcare situation became a glaring fact that was not a wash. I don't trust anyone who screws me to give me a report that was done by someone they employed.
Ralph L Lloyd

Article (Kostyu): Teachers’ pension board to consider lawsuit settlement

Canton Repository
December 7, 2005
By Paul E. Kostyu,
Copley Columbus Bureau Chief

COLUMBUS - For about $427,000, members of the state teachers’ pension fund board can make a class-action lawsuit, which already has cost the pension system $3 million, go away.

The board is expected to discuss Thursday a final settlement to the lawsuit brought by 260 noninvestment employees when the pension system didn’t pay their bonuses in 2003.

“I won’t say anything about the lawsuit,” said Robert B. Brown, chairman of the board.

But Dennis Leone, a member of the board who voted against a $3 million partial settlement last month, said terms have been offered and he’s “upset with the proposal. I’ve felt that way since November.” He would not discuss the details.

Copley Ohio Newspapers has learned the State Teachers Retirement System board will be asked to agree to:

• Paying the employees’ 8 percent share toward their retirement based on the bonuses they received in the earlier settlement. This is expected to cost about $148,860.

• Adding four current or former employees to the list of employees covered by both parts of the settlement.

• Paying an additional $275,000 in attorney fees to the employees’ lawyer, Michael R. Szolosi Sr. of Columbus. His total from both settlements will be $900,000.

• Paying additional litigation expenses not covered in the first settlement, which was $13,000. The final bill is expected to be at least $3,000.

In return, the board would not face punitive damages for withholding the bonuses.

A 2003 investigation by Copley found that bonuses were awarded for tasks, called “stretch goals,” that many considered part of employees’ regular jobs.

The retirement board suspended and then abolished the bonus program. It also voted not to award the bonuses to noninvestment staff, overriding decisions to do so by the former and current executive directors. It also ignored the advice of its state attorney. The employees then sued.

John Lazarus, another board member who voted against the initial settlement, said he would vote against this one as well.

““I didn’t think it was right to pay the bonuses,” he said, “and the board had no obligation to pay them. I’m against it whatever the final agreement comes out to be.”

Szolosi would not discuss the details of the settlement, but said Tuesday he’s been told the board would vote on the settlement Thursday.

He said a fairness hearing has been set for Dec. 15 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, giving any noninvestment employee unhappy with the settlement a week to raise an objection. Szolosi said he didn’t expect any to do so.

“I’m personally optimistic the board will approve this settlement reached by the lawyers,” Szolosi said. “There would be no further risk of punitive damages. They would have managed a significant risk by eliminating it.”

Once a settlement is reached, the board can expect still another bill, which also could reach six figures — from Attorney General Jim Petro, who assigned Columbus attorneys Roger Schantz and John Stock as special counsel to defend the pension board.

“I am of the opinion that those responsible for these expenses should assume the financial burden not the pension fund,” Leone said, referring to the more than $3,427,000 total settlement amount.

Asked if he meant former Executive Director Herbert Dyer, who set up the bonus system, former board members who approved the system and Petro, Leone would not say.

“I’ll be specific with names at the meeting,” he said.

Laura Ecklar, a spokeswoman for the board, Schantz and Petro’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Damon Asbury to Tom Curtis on SB 190: Grandfathering to be discussed at December Board meeting

From: Damon Asbury
To: Tom Curtis
Sent: Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Subject: RE: 120505 Curtis To Asbury; No Response To 2 Emails


I will reply to both of your 11/22/05 e-mails with this one reply.

With respect to your 11/22/05 e-mail, sent at 3:57 a.m., dealing with SB 190, I offer the following comments:

As you know, Buck Consultants has been asked to provide the Board with an analysis of the financial impact of SB 190. The impetus for this request comes from many sources, including staff, Board, individual members and organizations such as yours. Completing this study as of the end of the 2004-2005 school year is particularly appropriate since we have just completed the first five years under the provisions of the bill which included an enhancement in the benefit formula for extending the years of service from 30 to 35 years.

The report was expected to be completed for the November Board meeting, but the actuary asked to delay until December due to technical issues. At the November Board meeting, additional questions were posed, so the report will be presented at the January Board meeting. That report will show the impact of all aspects of SB 190, including the 35 year enhanced formula, the change to a 2.2% benefit formula for active teachers, the change to a 2.1% benefit formula for those who had already retired, and the provision to bring the purchasing power of benefit recipients to at least 85% of that at the time of retirement. While I would have preferred an earlier report, the additional information will make for a more complete report.

The analysis reported in the May 13, 2003 letter from Buck Consultants, to Mr. Herbert L. Dyer, was requested by the Retirement Board in 2003, due to suggestions from the membership that the 35 year enhancement might be too generous.

You suggest that the impetus for SB 190 was solely that of the Board in 1999. Actually, there were many sources of support because the system was nearly 100% funded at that time and both actives and retirees were seeking benefit enhancements. SB 190 provided for both with an estimated $900 million in benefits for retirees and $1.4 billion for active teachers. This was roughly proportional to the active/retiree ratio at the time.

It is my recollection that the discussions in 2004 with CORE about SB 190 centered on (1) whether the proposal was based on an actuarial study and (2) what the experience had been to date. Staff reported that an actuarial study had been performed by Buck Consultants at the time and that it was their opinion that receiving contributions from the employee and employer for five additional years, and paying pension and health care benefits for five fewer years would be “a wash.” I further indicated that STRS Ohio would have a study of the actual results prepared when there was actual data for five complete years.

You chose to characterize a desire for such as study as “flippant.” I believe it is the appropriate course of action. It is important, I believe, to base decisions on data, and not opinion, whether mine or yours.

I do think you will be pleased to know that the discussion of grandfathering that you and several Board members have requested is scheduled for the December Board meeting.

The IFS study you refer to is not under STRS Ohio control. It is being done independently under the auspices of the ORSC. We have no control over either the completion of the report or the timing of its release. I am also eager to receive the report.

Concerning the Buck Consultants report of 2002, the study has been previously shared with you, the Board, with the ORSC, etc. I don’t see that I can amplify on its contents.

With respect to your e-mail of 11/22/05, sent at 2:32 p.m., I appreciate your comments, but I certainly don’t feel that you need to apologize for any comments that you have made in the past. You are entitled to your views and opinions and even though you and I may share differing viewpoints, I respect your right to express yourself.

If I inadvertently angered you by posing the simple question about “who” promised you health care, please understand that it was an honest question on my part. As you may know, I began my own service as a contributing member to STRS Ohio in 1967 and I didn’t recall anyone promising me health care. Like you, I certainly hoped that it would continue to be available.

I know that we all can evoke strong feelings with our comments even when we don’t intend to do so. So, I also apologize to you if my question angered you. I didn’t mean to have that effect on you.


From: Thomas Curtis

Sent: Monday, December 05, 2005
Subject: 120505 Curtis To Asbury; No Response To 2 Emails

Hello Damon,

I sent you two emails on 11/22/05. I have received no reply from you concerning either email. Would you kindly respond to both?

Thank you,

Tom Curtis

Our legislature did WHAT? (Flashback Dec. 2002)

December 2002:

Legislature approves bill sponsored by state Rep. Jon Husted, R-Kettering, (now speaker of the House), which offers substantial charter-school incentives, including removal of the Ohio Department of Education from the approval and oversight process and establishment of revolving loan fund for construction.

What the Plain Dealer thinks of Jim Petro's TV ad.....

JEERS . . .

to Jim Petro, Ohio attorney general and candidate for governor, for a faith-and-family TV ad that goes about 4 miles over the top. Watching this soft-focused groaner is like drowning in maple syrup. (And if he thinks he can get to the right of rival Ken Blackwell on social issues, he's dreaming.)

Article: Schweitzer to ask lawmakers to put $125 million in pension funds (Montana)

Montana Forum
Dec. 06, 2005
By Charles S. Johnson
Lee State Bureau

HELENA - Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Monday he'll ask a special legislative session next week to spend $125 million to help bail out two public retirement systems' pension funds whose combined potential deficit tops $1.4 billion.

"We have to shore up our retirement systems for teachers and public employees, which will also help property tax payers," Schweitzer said.

Earlier this fall, Schweitzer, a Democrat, had pledged he would recommend pumping the $125 million in to the two pension funds.

He will target $100 million for the Teachers' Retirement System, which had an unfunded liability or potential deficit of $903.3 million as of July 1. Schweitzer also called for putting $25 million into the Public Employees Retirement System, which reported a $541 million potential deficit on July 1.

This money would come from one-time money that is part of a larger-than-anticipated state general fund, or "checking account," surplus.

The governor's budget director, David Ewer, said Schweitzer wants the Legislature to take up two other pension-related bills next week.

One, by the Teachers' Retirement System, would tighten language defining years of service and the ability of retired employees to return to work "to prevent abuses," Ewer said.

The other, backed by Schweitzer, which was endorsed by an interim legislative committee, would reinstitute its annual review of retirement legislation.

"This is very harmonious with the pension reform," Ewer said.

Ewer said the administration favors delaying action until 2007 on a bill requiring state and local governments and school districts to raise their employer contributions for pension funds for employees. They would have to pay more than $40 million a year in new funds, with local property taxes funding the lion's share.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Sinrud, R-Bozeman, announced a 13-point pension systems overhaul that he wants to raise next week.

If not allowed in Schweitzer's formal agenda, Sinrud said he will seek the signatures of 76 of the 150 lawmakers to expand the session.

"It's a $1.46 billion problem," Sinrud said. "If someone can solve a $1.46 billion problem by putting in $125 million, they're working magic."

The cornerstone of his plan calls for the state to issue $625 million in general obligation bonds, with the proceeds invested by the Board of Investments for the pension funds, with stiffer restrictions.

Schweitzer calls special session

Dem leaders seem to support plan to convene Legislature; GOP unsure
"You just can't throw money at the problem," Sinrud said. "You have to have reforms in the system."

If the Board of Investments made an 8 percent return on the investment of the money raised by the bond issue, which isn't unusual, Sinrud said five-eighths of the money would go to pay off the bonds, while three-eighths would go to the pension funds.

"It would save $400 million for taxpayers over 30 years," Sinrud said.

Ewer, who agreed with just a few parts of Sinrud's proposal, rejected the bonding proposal as "an inefficient use of capital."

"To have a huge infusion of capital with bond proceeds, we have to pay interest on those bonds," Ewer said, "whereas the contributions from employee and employer are cash flow (without interest). There is an opportunity cost for the state to have its bond capacity all sucked up with $625 million in pension funds."

Another Sinrud proposal opposed by Ewer would be to require all new state and local government employees to participate in the now-optional "defined contribution" retirement plan. Existing employees could remain in a "defined benefit" plans.

Ewer estimated about 10 percent of state employees have opted for the "defined contribution" plan, while the remainder participate in a "defined benefit" plan.

Under a "defined benefit" plan, an employee who works a certain number of years receives a fixed pension upon retirement that doesn't vary with how the stock and bond markets perform. Someone who works for the state for 30 years will retire at a fixed percentage of the average of his or her three highest years' salaries.

Someone under a "defined contribution" plan, invests his or her pension and the state's contributions in an array of financial market choices. Upon retirement, that person receives the balance of his or her investment account with no guaranteed pension. Defined contribution plans are increasingly common in the private sector.

"Defined benefits is a great deal," Sinrud said. "They can't afford it. They're going bankrupt."

Countered Ewer: "The defined benefit program is an important recruiting and retention benefit for state workers. It's an important option that we would want to preserve."
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