Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tom Curtis to Canton Repository: Taxpayers’ contribution rate for STRS hasn’t changed in more than 25 years

Canton Repository, January 12, 2010
Letter to the Editor
Regarding the Jan. 4 Associated Press stories “Taxpayers are being asked to cover increasing pension costs” and “Health costs burden pensions”:
Over the past week, I have been reading the very negative comments published across the state about the five public pension systems. Though there is much concern to go around, please let me share a few positive realities concerning the State Teachers Retirement System.
The educator pension contribution made by the 600-plus school districts in Ohio is currently at 14 percent, has not changed since 1984 and is the current cap.
The only increases in STRS pension rates since 1984 have been those increases made by the educators themselves. The last increase educators were asked to make by the STRS was in 2003. The educator contribution rate rose from 9.3 percent to 10 percent, which is the current cap.
Employee contribution rate increases have no impact on what the taxpayer is asked to contribute.
The Health Care Stabilization Fund, which subsidizes a portion of the health care benefits received by STRS retirees, is funded by a percentage taken from our 10 percent contribution, not from the 14 percent employer contribution. Subsidies are provided only for the retirees and not their spouses or dependent children, if that applies.
I would think the taxpayer would be very appreciative that the contribution rate has not increased for more than 25 years.
Comparing pension systems is like comparing, as they say, apples and oranges. Yet the press seems to place them all in one basket. That is not right. Each one has a different story.
Educators have always performed their duty and paid into their retirement system faithfully since 1920. We are not the bad guys here. The STRS administration, Wall Street and the banks have led to this huge underfunding problem, not the educators.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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