Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jim Conard to Jim McGreevy re: Management of STRS pension fund and 'savings at every level'

From Jim Conard, January 6, 2010
Subject: Thanks for Responding
Mr. McGreevy,
Thank you for responding and addressing many of my concerns. The main point that I was trying to make is still not being addressed, and that is the employment staff of the STRS needs more and as many changes as the active and retired teachers are facing. It would show a "good faith" effort on the part of the board, that the board is trying very hard to do all that is necessary to reduce the deficit in every way possible. "Every little bit helps" as the saying goes.
The "substantial staff reductions over the past few years" is commendable, but it only shows that no one has been let go recently due to the current financial problems. Staffing levels could still be reduced, the employees' medical benefits, as I understand it, costs the employees less and it has better coverage than the retired teachers. Why can't that be changed to be more in line with the retired teachers?
If the director, Michael Nehf, "has directed his managers to look for savings at every level", more pressure needs to be placed on the managers to work a little harder at finding areas where staff could be reduced. Addressing the issue of the number of employees at the present in many schools and places of business, jobs have been combined and more work has been placed on the employees that are still working and have not lost their jobs in the present economy, so more staff needs to be let go and remaining employees take their work load. I cannot believe that there is not a way that it could be done. After seeing what is happening in some schools, teachers let go, which has created larger class sizes and teachers taking on more responsibility in now teaching music, art and physical education.
Yes, we tend to look at the huge bonuses that are received by the investment staff, but how did any bonus plan reach the possibility of 125% of a base salary. That's outrageous in a retirement plan system! About the "service awards".....the longevity raises are based on bachelor degrees, masters degrees and continuing education. I wonder what the percentage is for taxpayers who have that much education for their job?
The point about the 35 years/88% is that if it turned out to be a mistake in the first place, then it should be dropped sooner than 2015. The number of teacher positions that would be left vacant would not be vacant for long, due to the job loss picture today.
As far as the point of an "empty gesture", that "empty gesture" would show just how concerned the board is to look everywhere for chances to increase the 30 year obligation, reduce the fund deficit and show concern for the active and retired teachers.
We helped get you elected, along with Bob Stein. We hoped you two would be the ones that could help improve the welfare as well as quality of life for retired teachers. But to us the only ones that have shown an improvement or status quo for their welfare and quality of life are the administrators and staff of STRS, because they have lost nothing. The fact that it is all paid from money that teachers have contributed in the first place is always forgotten.
As we battle back and forth with our own opinions about the financial mess that the pension fund is in, I want you to know that I really appreciate the fact that both you and Bob Stein take time to reply and address my concerns. I can't always say the same for most of the board members.
Jim Conard,
Shelby County Retired Teacher
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