Tuesday, June 29, 2038

NOTE: To find the most current posts, please scroll down to the two big red arrows. You can't miss them.

Friday, June 25, 2038

Angel of Grief

Thursday, June 24, 2038

Garrison Keillor

Friday, May 28, 2038

Items of interest in the Archives: The 2013 STRS Board Election

Many people have been very interested in reading about the irregularities of the 2013 STRS board election. There are many posts related to this topic, beginning the first week of April 2013, after the ballots were mailed to retirees from STRS. You can find them by going to the Archives for this blog, over in the right sidebar, and clicking on dates beginning with April 7, 2013. Dennis Leone announced his candidacy for a retired seat in November, 2012. There is a lot of information about him in the Archives, beginning with November 12, 2012 posts. 5/28/13

Wednesday, February 27, 2036

.....so what REALLY happened in 2003 that touched off a firestorm at STRS that is still smoldering today? Read it here, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. (Hint: It ain't over yet!)

More here (Akron Beacon Journal, 2003)

Wednesday, April 11, 2035

Thursday, March 10, 2033

To find current, day-to-day posts -- pull your scroll bar down a ways, just below the big red arrows (you can't miss them). Thanks.


Monday, September 15, 2031

Note from this blogger.....

In case you weren't aware, I am quite willing to post opposing views on this blog; in fact, I welcome such opportunities. If you disagree with anything you see posted on my blog, please feel free to submit your views and I will gladly post them.
Kathie Bracy 
kbb47@aol.com 9/15/10.........................................

Monday, February 24, 2031

Find your state representative and senator here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2029

Gettin' a little tired.....

Some communications to Mike Nehf and Tim Myers, dating back as far as 2009, continue to go unanswered. Looks like it will be a long wait, but we haven't forgotten. You can see them here and here.

Saturday, April 29, 2028

I know, it's weird.........

Many posts that appear "at the top" for a while are eventually moved down, where they can be found under their original posting dates. Also, if you are confused by the postdating, this is done to keep these posts up there; otherwise, they drift down when new posts are added. It's a "blog thing" which I have no other way to control. KB

Wednesday, February 24, 2027

Handy links: Contacts, information and more (short version)
This is an abbreviated version of the original 'Handy links' post.
 Click here to view a more complete list. (Some of it is old.)
STRS Board.....STRS website
Board calendar
E-mail contacts at STRS (old, but some may still work)
Map/directions to STRS, 275 E. Broad St. Columbus, OH 43215
Rich DeColibus' PowerPoint presentation STRS' PBI Program; Does it work?: click December 21, 2008 (blog Archive) and scroll down to December 23 posts.
Popular links; click, then scroll down: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 24, 2026

SPECIAL (must read):

Dennis Leone's INVESTIGATIVE REPORT on STRS: May 16, 2003...Who is Dennis Leone?........(PDF version)...More on Dennis Leone .......(PDF version)
Dennis Leone's STRS Report to ORTA, March 2007
Dennis Leone's Testimony at the Statehouse 9/5/12
The Plain Dealer article that started it all
Historic PBI vote, January 16, 2009

Sunday, February 23, 2020


Monday, May 21, 2018

OFT retirees, you are REALLY on the ball with the COLA movement; where the hell is OEA-R???

Joe Lupo to Ohio STRS Member Only Forum (Facebook)
May 21, 2018 
I am pleased to inform you that Dean Dennis has graciously agreed to be the Chef Spokesperson for the Ohio STRS retired members only forum members. Dean has done a lot of research and work regarding the STRS COLA 5 year freeze. When he addresses the STRS Retirement Board and STRS administrative staff he will be representing our 603 members.
Many of our newest members are educators still actively employed. We need retirees and those still working in school districts to be a check and balance for the STRS decision making process.
Please remember, while Dean is the designated Chief Spokesperson, all of us need to remain active and stay involved in the cause. We must be unified in our mission of protecting OUR STRS.
John Curry to Ohio STRS Member Only Forum (Facebook; response to above post)
May 21, 20188
Fantastic news.....and, he's NOT from the OEA ( he's a former OFT member), an organization who did little to protect the retirees from the COLA cut. Recently another OFT teacher STRS board member, Dale Price, was defeated by a pair of OEA anointed board members. Keep in mind that the former teacher STRS board members who were convicted of Ohio ethics violations were ALL active OEA members at the time. The OEA is a poor excuse for a union. I only wish I could have had paid dues to the OFT for all those years instead of the OEA. Sorry....but the truth hurts. I wonder if any of the readers of this Facebook page are aware that, a few years back, BOTH of the OEA employees' unions ( that's right, their employees organized for protection from the OEA) went out on strike AGAINST THEIR EMPLOYER - THE OEA? It "ain't" pretty, is it? Now maybe you can understand why nobody from the OEA-R is standing up and fighting against COLA cuts.....LIKE MEMBERS OF THE OFT ARE! OEA-R....where are you??????

Dan MacDonald and AFT lOCAL 279-R: Support for Robin Rayfield's request for STRS to lay out a pathway/roadmap to return to a COLA

Dan MacDonald's speech to STRS 
May 17, 2018
Good morning. I am Dan MacDonald, an STRS retiree, Cleveland Heights – University Heights City Schools. I retired in 2006. I am speaking on behalf of AFT’s Local 279-R, 1,000 plus dues paying retiree members strong.
After this morning’s interviews of 4 actuarial firms, our future looks bleak. Thank heavens one of them found us “uniquely appealing.” Last month ORTA Executive Director Dr. Rayfield asked STRS to lay out a pathway/roadmap to return to a COLA. With all the work on past pathways, I thought this was a tremendously accurate approach to which Local 279-R is in agreement. If you remember, last October during the Ad Hoc Committee for the Board’s Education & Planning meeting, then Board member Mr. Brooks requested that the Board add to the January planning meeting agenda a discussion of the Funding Policy geared to what happens if things get better, a discussion of the economy getting better and its positive effect on the Fund versus a Funding Policy geared to the downside. Mr. Steen supported his proposal. Although for some reason it did not ultimately make the January agenda, it still can be requested by Board members for discussion. A roadmap could be developed which all could check off the benchmarks of progress as the goals are met. Local 279-R supports Dr. Rayfield’s position.
Additionally, as was pointed out during last month’s Board meeting, anything over 120-125% doesn’t have much impact on the healthcare fund. Please consider delaying the loss of the last $29.90 of the Medicare Part B subsidy scheduled for January 1, 2019. Since the heath of the healthcare fund will be audited again this July, the Board could act in the fall. Allow retirees to keep their Medicare part B subsidy of $29,90. Let us, the retirees, know it is at least up for a Board agenda item discussion. Actives and retirees want their COLA back. No 5 year delay. No 13th check.
Thank you.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Board shaming by Suzanne Laird

Suzanne Laird's speech to the STRS Board
May 17, 2018
Chairman Hill, Members of My Board:
Good morning. My name is Suzanne Laird. I retired after 30 years of hard work.
I wear black today; in mourning for my COLA.
-- The COLA that was promised to me each time I met with my STRS advisor and was told, "you must retire in 2013 in order to SAVE your COLA."
-- the COLA that was stipulated in Ohio Revised Code 3307.67
-- the COLA that was summarily stripped away from hard working , dedicated educators while you, our Board, approved and accepted extravagant bonuses
-- I'm in mourning for a Board, MY Board, which apparently has NOT ONE member with the integrity to say, "This is wrong."
-- Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. [Pointing at each Board member with each "shame"]
-- Just as every teacher must provide accountability every quarter, I demand that you, my Board, provide quarterly reports defining WHEN the COLA will be restored.
Until then, I'm in mourning for my COLA.
Thank you for your time.

Retirees at STRS May 17, 2018

Click to enlarge.

Dean Dennis: The STRS Board or Ohio’s Legislature Should Freeze all STRS Bonuses and Salaries

Dean Dennis to the STRS Board, May 17, 2018
Assume that you take in money for 30 years for investment purposes. Then for the next 25 years you have to make annual payments off the investments. So you take in money for 30 years, then pay out for 25 years. Divide 25 by 30, and you get a ratio of 83%, which indicates that you have the monies for pure investment purposes about 17% longer than your payout liabilities.
Now let’s make teachers work 5 years longer. You now take in monies for 35 years for investment purposes, but now only have to pay out for 20 years. Divide 20 by 35 and you get a ratio of 57%, which indicates that you have the monies for pure investment purposes about 43% longer than your payout liabilities. From these two examples, you have gained over 25% in your investment margins. This obviously will significantly decrease your long term liabilities. STRS, by doing this, secured an insurance policy. It was done at the expense of teachers yet to retire. They then secured another insurance policy by withholding their COLA for their first 5 years of their retirement. This is wrong.
Let’s couple the above facts with these undisputed facts. Over every 30 year funding period in the history of STRS, they have exceeded returns of over 8%. So how can they justify lowering their 30 year earnings assumption to 7.45%? This is why our COLA is gone. STRS lowered their achievement standards. Can teachers lower their standards and expect their B students to get C’s, and then reward themselves when they earn a B?
Last year 94 members of the STRS investment department earned annual bonuses in addition to their salaries. Thirty-seven of these bonuses exceeded $100,000. Eight bonuses were over $250,000. Here we are, retired teachers, some with annual COLAs less than $1,000, and STRS is withholding COLAs. Most of us will lose 8 years of COLAs that were promised to us before STRS even reviews reinstating the COLA again in 2022.
Teachers, their families and friends, demand that the STRS Board or Ohio’s Legislature freeze all STRS bonuses and salaries until STRS can come up with a plan to restore our COLAs and make us whole. How STRS is rewarding themselves and treating retired teachers is simply wrong.

How much you are REALLY losing without your COLA

How Significant Is Losing Your COLA?

By Dean Dennis, Bob Buerkle and Mary Ronan
May 17, 2018

Many retirees assume that having their COST of Living Adjustment (COLA) reduced and then frozen amounts to losing only a thousand-plus dollars a year. Many don’t take the time to calculate just how much they are losing. By May 2022, the earliest that STRS will consider restoring your COLA, you will have lost a lot of money. For an idea, see the chart below.

If you retired prior to July 2012, STRS promised you a simple 3% COLA. STRS has reneged. First, they froze your COLA for a year. Next, your COLA was reduced from 3% to 2% for three years. Now your COLA is frozen for another 5 years. In short, you will be losing 8 years of a promised 3% COLA. The actions of STRS will be reviewed in 2022 by STRS. There’s no guarantee you will ever live to see another Cost of Living Adjustment again. You were lied to, and now are being robbed. A COLA was built into your pension formula, and at every step you were told you would receive a COLA. Below is an example of a retiree with a $50,000 pension who should be receiving a simple 3% COLA; three percent of $50,000 is $1,500.

Click image to enlarge:

Go to restoreourcola.com to sign the COLA petition, and keep the date of 06/21/2018 open to join in a mass protest at the STRS Board meeting. WEAR A BLACK SHIRT/BLOUSE and be there by 10:00 a.m. for speakers. After the speakers finish, we plan to exit and march the 33 blocks to the Statehouse and protest there also. TV stations will be there for coverage. Make up signs that refer to fairness for teachers, retirees and the importance of COLAs to maintain purchasing power.

Bob Buerkle breaks through the smoke-and-mirrors in his COLA speech to the STRS Board

Bob Buerkle to the STRS Board May 17, 2018

Breaking Down the “Cost -of-Living Adjustment” or COLA

During the 1970s, inflation was high. As a result, compensation-related contract benefits used COLAs to protect against inflation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) determines CPI-W, which is used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to compute COLAs. The COLA formula is determined by applying the percentage increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the following year.

Congress ratified a COLA provision to offer automatic yearly COLAs based on the annual increase in CPI-W that went into effect in 1975. Prior to 1975, social security benefits were increased when Congress approved special legislation. In 1975, COLAs were based on the increase in the CPI-W from the second quarter of 1974 to the first quarter of 1975. From 1976 to 1983, COLAs were based on the increases in the CPI-W from the first quarter of the previous year to the first quarter of the current year. Since 1983, COLAs are dependent on the CPI-W from the third quarter of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year.

Inflation levels ranged from 5.7 to 11.3% in the 1970s. In 197555, the COLA increase was 8%, and the inflation rate was 9.1%. In 1980, COLA reached the highest level in history at 14.3% when the inflation rate was 13.5%. In recent years lower inflation rates have prompted small COLA increases averaging 2 to 3% per year and 3 years with no COLA.

**STRS will not pay any future retiree a COLA for their first five years in retirement. What this really means is that the average retiree will lose a minimum of 155 COLA values times $1500 for a total of $232,500 (the actual lost value over an average retiree’s life expectancy). See page 27 of STRS Brochure “Service Retirement and Plans of Payment” on Cost of Living Adjustment rules.

Of the Five Ohio Retirement Systems;

1. Only STRS increased employee contributions by 40% (from 10 to 14%).

2. Only STRS also increased the minimum career requirement for a full pension by five more years (from 30 to 35 years).

3. Only STRS devised a devious plan to permanently eliminate their obligation to pay any pension to future retirees, by delaying their first pension payment, for five to nine years of time! (STRS began this phase-in beginning with 2015 and will continue through 2026. The loss imposed by this rule alone will cost the average teacher retiring after 2026 between $350-$630,000 in 2018 dollar values. STRS will never have to pay this because they are delaying the teachers’ ability to retire by 5 to 9 years.)

4. Of the Five Ohio Retirement Systems, STRS is only behind OPERS in pension system funding strength at 75% vs. 80%. (Twice the KY strength.)

5. Why does STRS use the lowest Earnings Assumption Rate of all 5 Pension Plans? (To justify their actions of eliminating our COLA benefit. It makes it look like STRS is short the necessary funds to pay for COLAs.)

6. Only STRS convinced Legislators to give them the authority to eliminate the STRS Retiree COLA increases for as many years as they see fit (currently 8 years lost through 2022 which will cost the average retiree another $500,000 in lost pension income even if a 2% COLA is restored after 2022).

Conclusion: Ohio Teachers and Retirees are having financial sacrifices imposed upon them that are 5 to 10 times more costly than the states of Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona. However, Ohio Teachers and Retirees have yet to mount a mass protest, mainly because it was done in such a convoluted way that is difficult to fully understand since the most devastating pension losses will come nearer to the end of your life.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dean Dennis: STRS Rewards Employees While Retirees Go Without COLA

Dean Dennis
Cincinnati, OH
MAY 16, 2018 — STRS has seen fit to give annual performance bonuses to 94 employees. Believe it or not, 37 of these employees received bonuses of over $100,000 and 8 employees received annual bonuses of over a quarter of a million dollars. All this was in addition to their annual salaries. Could STRS see fit to give us our annual simple COLA? Of course not. The message STRS sends to us is, "let them eat cake." Ohio's Legislature needs to intervene and send a message to STRS.
We should all demand that the STRS Board, and our legislators, freeze all STRS salaries and suspend all STRS bonuses until STRS restores our COLA. This will certainly be brought up at the May 17th, STRS Board Meeting when the public is invited to speak. It is our contributions that are paying for their large bonuses.
STRS has created this problem. Keep in mind, STRS has always earned over 8% for every 30 year funding period on their investments. They created this paper shortfall by claiming they are only going to earn 7.45% going forward. This downward projected caused our COLA to be suspended; but not their bonuses. Incidentally, STRS earned 14.29% last year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Heads up all STRS members: Mass protest scheduled for June 21 at STRS and the Ohio Statehouse

From Bob Buerkle:
If you can, keep the date open for 06/21/2018 to join in a mass protest at STRS at the Board Meeting. WEAR A BLACK SHIRT/BLOUSE and be there by 10am. Speakers start soon after that.
After the speakers finish we plan to exit and march the 3 blocks to the Statehouse and protest there also. We will get the TV Stations there for coverage.

Monday, May 07, 2018

PETITION; PLEASE READ AND SIGN: Respect Ohio's Retired Teachers, Restore Their Promised COLA

Please click this link and sign this petition; most importantly, please share.


Dean Dennis

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Your COLA: "You were lied to, and now are being robbed"

How Significant Is Losing Your COLA?
Dean Dennis, Bob Buerkle, Mary Ronan
Many retirees assume that having their Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) reduced and then frozen, amounts to losing only a thousand plus dollars a year. Many don't take the time to calculate just how much they are losing. By May 2022, the earliest that STRS will consider restoring your COLA, you will have lost a lot of money. For an idea, see the chart below.

If you retired prior to July 2012, STRS promised you a simple 3% COLA. STRS has reneged. First, they froze your COLA for a year. Next, your COLA was reduced from 3% to 2% for three years. Now your COLA is frozen for another 5 years. In short, you will be losing 8 years of a promised 3% COLA. The actions of STRS, will be reviewed in 2022, by STRS. There's no guarantee you will ever live to see another Cost of Living Adjustment again. You were lied to, and now are being robbed. A COLA was built into your pension formula and at every step you were told you would receive a COLA. Below is an example of a retiree with a $50,000 pension who should be receiving a simple 3% COLA; three percent of $50,000 is $1,500.

Click image to enlarge

Thursday, April 26, 2018

STRS Ohio Retirement Board Contact Information (Revised 9/7/2017)

Mark Hill, chair
Contributing Member
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Robert Stein, vice chair
Retired Member
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43125

Craig C. Brooks
Appointed Member
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215
(440) 349-4931

Carol Correthers
Contributing Member
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Taiyia Hayden
Contributing Member
4443 Landmark Road
Groveport, OH 43125-8924

Yoel Mayerfeld
Appointed Member
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Tim Myers
Contributing Member
1676 Bethel Road
Columbus, OH 43220

Dale Price
Contributing Member
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Wade Steen
Appointed Member
222 East Town Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Rita J. Walters
Retired Member
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Sarah Wickham
Superintendent of Public Instruction Designee
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Executive Director
Mike Nehf
275 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215
Toll-free (888) 227-7877

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Letter to our retired members of the STRS Board

Mr. Bob Stein
Ms. Rita Walters  
State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio
275 E. Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

April 19, 2018  

Dear Mr. Stein and Ms. Walters, 

The loss of STRS members' COLA has caused a hardship for a large number of our older members. These are the ones who retired when salaries had not yet made the climb they did after they retired. Also, we are all falling behind in our ability to keep up with the cost of living.

I feel strongly that we were illegally deprived of our COLA. I retired under ORC Statute 3307.67, which was modified after my retirement date. Since this change took place on January 1, 2013, the original language clearly stated that "the COLA shall be 3%."  Those people who retired before that date should never have had their COLA changed!

I am asking for STRS to give the retirees of Ohio a quarterly report on the financial progress being made towards the recovery of the COLA. I am asking that some kind of chart, graph, or similar item be made available to all STRS beneficiaries. It needs to contain the financial facts of (1) where we need to be to recover the COLA, (2) where we are on that quarter's report, and (3) a projection of when we will reach the stated goal of recovery.

In all the years of your indexed formula projections, STRS definitely planned for this promised COLA. It was also included in their final Reserve Transfer Calculations which went out to all covered Ohio retirees. We retirees do not deserve to lose what should have been a protected benefit.

In closing, I am asking for an accounting of where STRS is in recovering OUR lost benefit. It should be done quarterly and in a simple-to-understand format. You are our representatives on the STRS Board, and I am asking that you spearhead the move toward this badly needed and long overdue transparency.

Yours truly, 
Kathie Bracy
STRS Beneficiary

Monday, March 26, 2018

Bob Buerkle and Dean Dennis to legislators: Can STRS retirees depend on legislative support to restore our promised and earned COLA?

March 26, 2018
Representatives, Dever, Seitz, Ingram, Reece, and Schuring
Undoubtedly, you are aware of House Bill 413 and its controversy, "Ohio lawmakers kill bill to cut PERS benefits:"
As you are aware, retired STRS teachers had their simple COLAs frozen for a year, then reduced from 3% down to 2% for three years. Currently, STRS has suspended the COLA for 5 years and will not review their actions until 2022. All these actions took place and impacted teachers who retired prior to 2012.
Historically, statutory benefits have never been reduced, only enhanced. It was surprising to hear that perhaps many of your legislative peers were unaware they handed over so much control to STRS and are now questioning the actions of STRS. Rightfully so. It's a sad day when Ohio does not honor its Defined Benefit Plan to those whom served Ohio's children. STRS has always promised a COLA benefit and this is easily proven. Just like Social Security recipients who are granted and rely upon their compounded COLA benefit; most of Ohio's retired teachers rely heavily on their promised simple COLA so that they do not fall behind in their golden years. Teachers went into teaching understanding they likely were never going to get rich, but they never excepted to get cheated out of a vital part of their pension.
Out of a sense of fairness, coupled with the fact that there are at least three Ohio's Statutes being violated; can retired teachers count on legislative support to restore their promised and earned COLA benefit?
Please read the attached document for an understanding of the Statutory violations and why you need to intervene with STRS.
Dean Dennis (Retired CFT/Field Rep and Vice President)
Bob Buerkle (Retired CFT Retirement Chair)
Mary Ronan (Retired CPS Superintendent)
~    ~    ~    ~    ~
Text of PDF file attached to the above letter: 
STRS COLA Loss For Retirees Violates Ohio Statutes
Below are three of Ohio's Statutes being violated; these are separate from the Ohio Defined Benefit Plan which is also being violated:
1) ORC 3307.14 (note: §(E),para.2) (also note 3307.30)
2) Ohio Article II, Section 28 (note: at the Federal level, the Takings Clause is also being violated)
3) We retired under this ORC Statute. 3307.67., which was later changed after our retirement date. This change became effective retroactively on 01/07/2013. The prior statute clearly stated that the COLA shall be 3%.
In addition, STRS definitely planned for this promised COLA in their indexed formula calculations. It was also included in their final "Reserve Transfer Calculations" which is completed for all retirees. Legislators need to know that STRS has met their designated earnings assumption over our 30 year funding period, and all 30 year funding periods. As a reminder, retirees also made significant personal contributions to their pension plan. These contributions were put into a plan and retirees were repeatedly assured, STRS assumed all the investment risks. We retired under Ohio's Defined Benefit Plan.
By Ohio statute, we were not permitted any control over monies we contributed towards our pension and benefits. We were not permitted to pay into Ohio's Defined Contribution Plan, or even pay a proportion into Social Security as teachers are permitted in many other states, such as our neighbor Pennsylvania. An advantage, it was thought, was that STRS was setting aside our earned money for our pension benefits.
For clarity, how monies are collected and invested and set aside under our Defined Benefit Plan, are drastically different from Social Security. Our plan is very formula driven to assure our retirement benefit payouts reflect that 100% of those who earned more, also paid in proportionately more. Conversely, Social Security is a socially funded program. Social Security contributions by the individual are significantly less than STRS contributions, STRS contribution are 125% more. Social Security monies also fund other entitlement programs.
Clearly stated, our Ohio STRS Defined Benefit Plan was specifically designed to provide benefits to educators which correlated to their earned salary and service credit. These monies were tied to the STRS indexed retirement formula to assure benefits could be paid. We worked under a Defined Benefit plan of which the employer assumed all the risk. Statutes in Ohio clearly state shortcomings in funding shall be made up by the employer. (See ORC 3307.14.)
That stated, the teacher employee's contributions has risen from 7% to 14%, whereas the employers contribution has remained stagnant over the last 34 year period. If indeed everyone agrees that STRS is truly experiencing a funding shortfall, it is time to look at both ethical and legal options. One option would be to temporarily increase the employer contribution (3307.14). However, perhaps the best option would be to review why STRS has determined they can only earn 7.45% going forward, when they have always earned over 8% for their 30 year unfunded liability periods. More concerns are below.
How can teachers be treated so differently from PERS and Police and Fire? This seems unfair. Is it a STRS management problem? Here are some facts:
a) STRS did not submit a plan to the ORSC. If they had, perhaps it would have revealed they fell below the 30 year legislative recommended funding level because they reduced the earnings assumption. Perhaps legislators would have protected the COLA.
b) STRS states their goal is to get to 100% funding. This is comparable to a mortgage company requiring $250,000 in the bank for a $250,000 loan. The STRS goal is unreasonable if it means they have deny, or steal, promised benefits.
c) While retired teachers are having their COLAs withheld, STRS is still paying huge bonuses to their investment staff, some of which exceed their annual salaries. These bonuses likely average $150,000. Compare that to the average retired teacher's COLA; which is less than $1,500. It's a little immoral that one person's STRS bonuses could fund COLAs for 100 retirees. One hundred retirees who are not now getting the cost-of-living they are depending upon. How can Ohio be allowing these bonuses when STRS claims they can't afford to pay COLAs?
d) STRS reduced the earnings assumption to a level well below their 30 year historical earnings average. This created a fabricated loss which ultimately was used to eliminate our COLA.
e) STRS did not approach Ohio's Legislator to change the 30 year funding recommendation to a 35 year funding recommendation. STRS members must now work 35 years and be at least 60 years of age to retire. By not doing this change, our COLA was impacted.
f) Lastly, STRS Management should be legislatively restricted from pursuing their internal goal of 100% funding unless it can be done after all pension promises are met. This goal is coming at the expense of earned retiree benefits being withheld.
Again, the current COLA problem occurred when STRS recently lowered their earning assumption to 7.45%. This created a paper liability. Yet last fiscal year, STRS earned over 14%. One has to ask, what is the Police and Fire's earnings assumption? Recently, it was 8.15% which is most likely closer to their 30 year rolling unfunded liability period and their actual earnings average.
STRS needs to revisit their lowered earnings assumption rate and use real 30 year return averages. Legislators should not allow STRS to assume they will earn less over the next 30 years than all their other previous 30 year periods. This is unrealistic and makes for inequities across Ohio's pension systems. For informational purposes in the history of the stock market the S&P has recorded sixty-four 30 year periods. For these sixty-four 30 year periods, the S&P has always returned over 8% and has averaged 9.8%. Why are we paying huge bonuses for STRS to average so much less, especially in times when they are withholding our COLAs? That said, if a downward adjust is needed, the STRS adjustments should only impact those who have yet to enter the system; not those who have paid their dues and have already retired. If that can't be accomplished then the Defined Benefit Plan should be scrapped.
In conclusion, it is unethical to punish retired teachers after they have met retirement requirements for promised and stated benefits. They retire, then have their benefits reneged upon. Ohio legislator's sense of ethics seems to be our only recourse. Teachers taught Ohio's children for decades and held up their end of the bargain. They taught Ohio's children about right and wrong, our nation's history, citizenship, why we have laws and they also taught them about the importance of honoring contracts. The question for Ohio's legislators is what lesson is being taught to our retired teachers when benefits are taken away under a Defined Benefit Plan? STRS is robbing us in our golden years; it isn't fair or right and we need help.
Hopefully, retired teachers will be afforded the same consideration afforded to PERS Members regarding House Bill 413. Retired teachers rely on the COLA benefit promise being honored.
Thank you,
Dean Dennis, Bob Buerkle, Mary Ronan

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Tom Curtis to Stark County RTA: A History Lesson About Attempted Reform At STRS

February 3, 2018

Dear Educators, 

The following is a brief history lesson for those of you who are currently calling for large meetings, regarding the loss of STRS benefits. Obviously, many BR's [Benefit Recipients] want to know why this happened and what can be done, if anything, to have some of our benefits reinstated.  

After you read the following, ask yourself, "where was I when attempts to bring about spending reform at STRS were being made in the early to mid 2000's and why was I not concerned then?" 

During the bull market in the 90's, STRS made and spent huge sums of money on capital improvements. STRS bought a large portion of surrounding real estate adjacent to the existing building, completed a total renovation of the exiting building, added many features like a free day care center for employees' children, built a large parking garage for employees and visitors and made many large expenditures for art work and sculptures. In my opinion, the size of the STRS building far exceeds the space needed to operate our pension system and is a drain on our retirement monies. Herb Dyer never considered STRS deposits to be our money, but his money. 

In 2001, STRS lost 12.3 billion dollars, due to the 2001 stock market crash. After that loss, STRS spending practices continued unabated, business as usual. This appeared to be grossly inappropriate to those who paid attention to the business and spending practices at STRS. The STRS staff continued to grow to an all time high of 545 employees and they were still advertising for more employees. 

In 2002, this prompted Dr. Dennis Leone, a superintendent from Chillicothe, to travel to STRS and conduct his own audit of the spending practices of the STRS Board and Executive Staff. Another superintendent, John Lazares, accompanied him at times. They sifted through the budgets of recent years and found what they thought were flagrant examples of misspending and mismanagement of retirees' funds. Dr. Leone found that the Board sanctioned all of the misspending and mismanagement by unanimously passing every motion that came to a vote in the prior 3 years. 

Dr. Leone prepared a sixteen-page document, listing all of the expenditures he found to be unwarranted. He presented it to the STRS Board at a monthly Board meeting in 2003. The Board failed to acknowledge or embrace his findings, even though he presented it to the Board at 2-3 subsequent Board meetings. 

During Dr. Leone's final presentation to the Board, Damon Asbury, Assistant Executive Director at the time, advised the Executive Director, Herb Dyer that he needed to acknowledge Dr. Leone's findings.  

About that same time, Dr. Leone's document found its way to an investigative reporter form the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Stephen Ohlemacher, who then went to STRS and did his own research. He found that not only were all of Dr. Leone's findings of misspending and mismanagement accurate, he even identified four more such practices. Ohlemacher then presented his findings in a lengthy exposé published June 8, 2003 in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Following that eye-opening article, over 100 other articles appeared in numerous newspapers throughout the state over the course of 2-3 years, most notably from investigative journalist Paul Kostyu in our own Canton Repository. 

At that time, the STRS Board was comprised of 9 Board members. Five of those Board members held strong ties to the OEA, one of whom was the immediate past president of the OEA. Those 5 Board members controlled all voting by the Board. The one retired Board member at that time, told me it was made clear to the others on the Board that all motions passed would be unanimous. 

When Dr. Leone's document was made public, the OEA immediately began discrediting his findings. The then OEA President sent out a notice to all OEA local presidents advising them to disregard Dr. Leone's findings as rubbish. Numerous STRS retirees contacted the OEA to question the posture the OEA had taken on those findings. To my knowledge, all correspondence was ignored. OEA's position on the reported abuses seemed earth shattering to those who had been following Dr. Leone's findings and wanted answers for the mismanagement and misspending he brought to light. The OEA accepted no accountability for any of the misspending and mismanagement, yet the OEA had financed and promoted each of those 5 Board members' election to the Board. 

In 2003, a small group of retired Plain Local teachers followed Dr. Leone's lead and started a movement to attempt to bring about reform at STRS.That initial group organized a rally that was held in front of the Statehouse in Columbus on the same day of the STRS monthly Board meeting.  

That rally brought together 400-600 STRS benefit recipients. The rally organizers made a presentation about Dr. Leone's findings and then called for a march on STRS to attend the STRS board meeting and demand answers to his findings. Numerous educators spoke to the Board that day, but no response was provided. Educators spoke at Board meetings monthly, but never received any response from Board members. They obviously felt that they were beyond accountability. 

Herb Dyer, then the Executive Director of STRS, was livid with the fact that all of these people flowed into "his" Board Meeting and into adjacent rooms. His attitude was that we had no business being there and that we should go home and let STRS move on with business as usual. He said STRS was financially stable and benefit recipients had no business questioning his financial accountability. Obviously, we now know that was untrue. 

After that Board meeting and for several years thereafter, many of those educators continued to be watchdogs and attended every Board meeting. Those dedicated retirees, who came from all over the state, banded together and formed an organization known as CORE, Concerned Ohio Retired Educators.  

The OEA, STRS and ORTA quickly dubbed CORE members as merely "disgruntled retirees". Because those organizations belittled and discredited us, the majority of the 200-300 hundred thousand educators belonging to STRS never knew about the abuses regarding the flagrant misuse of retirees' funds and the efforts of those educators who were attempting to bring those abuses to the light of day. Thousands of Ohio educators did not even know about the over 100 newspaper articles exposing those abuses. 

CORE was responsible for getting the necessary petitions signed to place John Lazares and Dr. Dennis Leone on upcoming election ballots. Lazares was voted onto the Board first and Dr. Leone the following year, unseating two long time OEA-sanctioned board members. The OEA made sure that would never happen again by forbidding anyone but OEA-approved persons to place anything in teachers' mailboxes in the hundreds of school districts all over Ohio. No STRS Board member has since been elected to the Board that was not backed and supported by the OEA.

It should be noted that CORE received absolutely no support  from ORTA, even though ORTA's Executive Director attended all of CORE's monthly meetings. ORTA would not take a stand on the election of either of CORE's candidates, nor did any representative of ORTA ever address the STRS Board when up to 20 educators questioned Board actions at nearly every Board meeting.  

Dr. Leone, with the support of CORE was able to bring about a change in the composition of the STRS Board through legislation. A second retiree seat was added where there was only one before, and 2 other seats were to be filled with people having business and investment backgrounds. The OEA no longer had a majority vote of the Board. 

In the end, STRS retired Board members Dr. Dennis Leone and John Lazares, along with CORE, were able to bring about numerous reforms. Some have remained, but for the most part, after Leone and Lazares left the Board, STRS went back to business as usual. 

Since 2006, STRS has continued to tell the membership through newsletters and others means of communication that STRS was on track with meeting the State 30-year mandate concerning the unfunded liabilty. That 30-year unfunded liability is still a long way off from being met.  

The huge changes that were made about 3-5 years ago were to have fixed the problem. A problem cannot be fixed when the people who are the cause of the problem, ignore the problem. STRS has used bogus numbers in figuring the unfunded liability, since that time. STRS is finally admitting that those numbers were not realistic and that the unfunded liability is much greater then anticipated. Anyone who truly knows how that is figured, knows the truth.  

Now that the STRS Board voted and removed all of our additional benefits, thus leaving us with a stagnant pension payment, the STRS membership has finally taken notice. 

What is sad is that those whistle-blowers, Dennis Leone, John Lazares, CORE members and the press were ignored by roughly 90% of the STRS membership back in the early 2000's. CORE tried desperately to bring to light the future consequences of the misspending and mismanagement by the STRS Board and the Executive Officers. CORE could see the large picture. The OEA, STRS and ORTA continued to tell educators everything was just fine and that STRS was financially very stable. That was not true then and is possibly not true today. The Board cannot remove any more  benefits, for they are all gone, so what happens now? 

CORE members predicted that all benefit recipients would likely lose all of their additional benefits, beyond our guaranteed pension in the future, but only a very small minority listened.  

As a life member of SCRTA, I tried to make the SCRTA leadership aware of the future consequences. I could not believe the amount of resistance I faced. The leadership did not like me sticking my nose into "their" association. I was again told I was just a disgruntled retiree by the present and past presidents of that time.  

I asked the president if Dr. Leone would be permitted to address SCRTA to inform them of the situation at STRS. I was told the speaking agenda had already been determined for that year and could not be changed. Every effort I made to bring the information concerning all of the mismanagement and misspending that had taken place at STRS to the membership was thwarted by the leadership of that time. 
At one meeting, I attempted to hand out information for a person who was running for an active seat on the Board, but was not supported by the OEA. The past president put his hands on me and ran me out of the church hallway after the meeting. He told me, a lifetime member, that I could not pass that out to "his members." I was verbally threatened and asked to leave the church hallway. Because that man placed hands on me, I filed a complaint with ORTA, but my complaint was ignored. Why, because all of his board members said they saw what took place and "lied", saying that did not happen. 

I have never returned to a SCRTA meeting since that time. I further relinquished my lifetime membership with ORTA, because I wanted no part of an organization that knew what had taken place at STRS, but made no attempts to bring the problem to light.  

It is my sincere hope that all of you who are now getting involved and concerned about why we have lost all of our extra benefits, find some solace in your efforts. STRS is all about politics.  Do you really think that is going to change? 

Sincere regards,
Thomas Curtis
1998 Plain Local Retiree
CORE organizer
SCRTA life member
ORTA life member (relinquished membership)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wayne Clark to STRS Board: Sacrificing the July - December Retirees COLA Isn't an Option!

From Wayne Clark
December 12, 2017

Chairman Hill and Members of the Board,

Every month until you resolve the huge multi-million dollar financial inequality you chose to saddle upon the tens of thousands of July through December retirees, I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure this will never be swept under the rug and forgotten! I will continue to speak out about this financial inequity until every July through December retiree knows how they have been "swindled" out of COLA benefits by the people who were elected to look out for their best interest. At some point, I will publicly address all of you at a Board meeting. When that day comes I will make sure everyone knows how you have “swindled” the July through December retirees out of hundreds of millions of dollars while continuing to grant the January through June retirees those same COLA funds. Sacrificing the July through December retirees COLA funds while granting those funds to the January through June retirees isn’t an option. #StopSTRSOHIOinequity
Just in case you have forgotten, below and attached is a copy of the chart that shows how you are swindling July - December retirees out of COLA that you are giving to the January through June retirees. [See post below: Wayne Clark: How numerous STRS retirees are being fleeced by COLA inequities (Board: Are you listening?)]
Wayne Clark
STRS retiree
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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