Friday, April 21, 2017

Dennis Leone: Comments on Bob Buerkle's 4/20/17 speech to STRS Board

Dennis Leone to Bob Buerkle
April 21, 2017
Thank you Bob.  You gave a great, accurate speech……….AFTER the vote.  Amazing.  The STRS Board decision is PERMANENT, irrespective of what anyone might think. I recall saying and writing in 2013 that the so-called 5-year temporary freeze on the COLA for new retirees beginning that year was a sham, and that the COLA would be completely eliminated for them by 2018 – which is when 2013 retirees were due to begin receiving it –  because Board members would cleverly take the posture of “Oh well, they’ve never received a COLA anyway, so what’s the big deal.”
I hope to attend the next STRS Board meeting, and start my chain of frequent public records’ requests pertaining to staff salaries at STRS.  I wish to know if ANY employee will get a raise now from pension system money, and I will howl if it happens.  If raises are given, this will trigger letters from me to lawmakers, and believe me when I say that it will get their attention.  Also, here is an unintended consequence of the STRS Board’s decision, and something that no one on the STRS Board even thought about it:  With retirees now with an absolute fixed income that is FROZEN, retirees  will be less likely to vote for ANY school levies, especially those that hit property taxes.  Without knowing it, the STRS Board has hurt itself, which in turn, hurts retirees long term.  Had the STRS staff and Board members listened in 2006 and 2007 to repeated warnings that their payroll growth assumptions, year and year, were horribly overestimated, and had the 2012 legislative changes adopted by the Board occurred five or six years earlier as they should have been, we all would be in a lot better shape today. 
The Board’s decision to eliminate the COLA also gave the finger to the oldest retirees who have the least.  No one the STRS Board gives a damn about my 88-year-old mother-in-law, whose COLA was the only way she hoped to cover increased costs for things like car insurance.  At a minimum, the Board could have done something to protect the COLA of our oldest retirees who have the least.  I may be wrong, but I suspect that all 11 STRS Board members have their health insurance through their employer or through their wife’s employer.  I doubt that any of them are paying the full freight as many retirees are, and as I did when I served on the board in 2005-2009.  The STRS Board is out-of-touch again, as it was throughout the 1990’s and during the early 2000’s.  Sad.  I guess we all should be happy that the current STRS Board and staff aren’t using pension money for booze, parties, $1,000 dinners, bonus checks for 500 employees, and lavish trips to vacation resorts like the Board and staff did years ago.  I saved a 2002 letter that former STRS Executive Director Herb Dyer sent to a retiree:  Dyer wrote “the pension system’s money is the Board’s money to spend as they see fit,” and “perhaps retirees should go out to dinner less often.”  A few weeks after that, when the letter was shared with the Ohio General Assembly, there were 101 lawmakers who called for Mr. Dyer’s resignation.  How quickly we forget.
Dennis Leone
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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