Thursday, January 07, 2010

Tom Curtis to James Nash: The other side of the story

From Tom Curtis, January 7, 2010
Subject: 010610 Curtis To Nash, Article, Good As Gold
Hello Mr. Nash,
Would you kindly publish another article that would show the public/taxpayer another side of one of the five pension systems, the STRS?
My name is Tom Curtis. I am a retired educator (1998) and have been very actively involved in attempting to bring about reform at the STRS, beginning in February 2003.
Let me start by saying, that in my opinion, there is much needed reform at the STRS. Reform due to the mismanagement and misspending of our funds. This has greatly helped to increase the STRS unfunded liability to where it stands today, at infinity.
During the past decade, the STRS has lost in excess of $42 billion dollars, because of poor investment performance, yet the investment department has until this past year (they lost 5/12ths of the year; they were paid for 7/12ths) received millions in bonuses each year. This should not be news to you, for there have been hundreds of newspaper articles written about the financial problems of the STRS during the past 10 years.
Back to the point. Over the past week, I have been reading all of the very negative comments about the 5 pension systems. Though there is much concern to go around, there are favorable issues that neither you or others in the media seemingly reviewed.
Many statements in the newspaper articles would lead the taxpayer to believe that pension costs have continually risen. That is simply not the case for educators. This is a point that each of the papers that collaborated on their research and writting of these articles should have included, otherwise, you are simply causing pension envy that is not warranted.
The educator pension contribution made by the 600+ schools in Ohio is currently at 14% and has not changed since 1984.
The only increases in STRS pension amounts since 1984 has been those increases made by the educators themselves. The last increase educators were asked to make by teh STRS was in 2003. The educator contribution rose from 9.3% to 10%, which is the current cap. Those increases had nothing to do with what the taxpayer is forced to contribute. Our HC is payed for by a contribution percentage taken from our own contribution.
I hope you will verify my information by viewing the ORSC Website, because once you do, you will realize that educators have not seen an increase in pension spending to the taxpayer for over 25 years, so I find accusations of continued pension increases to be unfounded.
Jim, don't you think the taxpayer should know both sides of this information? Considering that Ohio taxpayer's have not seen an increase in cost for STRS pensions since 1984, I would think the taxpayer would be very appreciative for us holding the line for such a long period of time. 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.
The teachers 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 stakeholders.
Since the STRS has not increased the pension contribution rate since 1984, when do you think it might be appropriate for an increase to occur? Do we not ever deserve such?
A reply would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your consideration.
Thomas Curtis
North Canton, Oh
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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