Friday, January 19, 2007

Kathie Bracy: A letter to Michelle Schneider

Kathie Bracy to Rep. Michelle Schneider, January 19, 2007
Subject: About your Alternative Retirement Plan legislation

Dear Representative Schneider,
I am more than disappointed -- I am SHOCKED that you would wish to sponsor legislation that would destroy a pension system for Ohio's retired teachers with your proposed Alternative Retirement Plan legislation. Our pension system at STRS has worked just fine for decades, providing a stable and reliable income for Ohio's retirees and a viable "carrot" for attracting new teachers. Why fix something that "ain't broke?"
The answer is obvious. I don't know what party you belong to, but you sure sound like a leftover, ethically-challenged Republican from the Taft era to me (sorry -- I'm a lifelong Republican to whom the word "Republican" has become a dirty word), attempting to continue the culture of greed in the Strickland administration. I cannot help but wonder what's in this kind of legislation for you and your friends, but I suspect there's plenty of $$$$$ to be made by ALL of you if this legislation goes through. Nobody consulted the teachers! Where's the open discussion on this? Why would you be interested in encouraging young teachers to risk gambling their retirement away? Where are the studies showing this would be a GOOD thing for active and retired teachers? I can see current and future retired educators, as well as employers (school districts) and our pension system suffering equally while investment houses laugh all the way to the bank!!!!!!!!!! And more to the point: why is this legislation aimed solely at EDUCATORS, and NOT AT THE OTHER FOUR PENSION SYSTEMS, INCLUDING YOUR OWN OPERS??? Hey -- fair is fair!! Go after THEM, TOO!!
Greed, greed, greed, greed, GREED!!! Whatever happened to common DECENCY? I will gladly support those who are HONEST and DO THE RIGHT THING, I don't care WHAT party they belong to. Which camp are you in?
Angry? You bet!! Sick and tired of those who would screw our pension system!
Katherine B. Bracy
STRS retiree
Columbus, OH
(Phone no.)

January Board news from STRS

From STRS, January 19, 2007
Subject: [News] January Board News Details Retirement Board Actions and Discussions

This week, the State Teachers Retirement Board held its monthly meeting. Following the regularly scheduled meetings, a report titled "Board News" is posted on the STRS Ohio Web site, as well as mailed to a number of members and education organization representatives who have requested it. As a member of STRS Ohio with an e-mail address on file, you will also receive this report each month. The January report follows.
2006 ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT AUDIT COMPLETED Clifton Gunderson completed its audit of the STRS Ohio financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2006. In reporting the results of the audit to the State Teachers Retirement Board at its Jan. 18, 2007, meeting, the auditors noted that the system's financial statements were fairly stated in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. During its audit, Clifton Gunderson also considered internal controls over financial reporting and tested compliance with certain laws and regulations. Its report indicated that no material weaknesses in internal controls or instances of statutory noncompliance were found. As a result, STRS Ohio received an unqualified opinion, which is the highest level of opinion that an organization can receive. STRS Ohio's financial statements are included in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which is available for viewing on STRS Ohio's Web site or by calling the Member Services Center (see article below).
ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2006 NOW AVAILABLE Every year, STRS Ohio publishes its annual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. This report has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for 16 consecutive years, as well as recognition from the Public Pension Coordinating Council.
The current Comprehensive Annual Financial Report provides a detailed look at STRS Ohio's investment activities, plus financial, actuarial and statistical information for fiscal year 2005-2006 (July 1, 2005-June 30, 2006). The report can be accessed through the STRS Ohio Web site at Copies of the report can also be requested by calling STRS Ohio's Member Services Center toll-free at 1-888-227-7877.

HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION WILL BE REINTRODUCED On Dec. 14, Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-Canton) introduced the STRS Ohio-proposed health care bill. House Bill 707 carried with it the support of the Health Care Advocates for STRS -- a coalition of major management, professional and retiree organizations representing Ohio's public K-12 and higher education teachers. The STRS Ohio proposal calls for increasing public teachers' contributions to STRS Ohio by 2.5% and their employers' contributions by 2.5% of teacher payroll to create an ongoing, dedicated revenue stream for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program. These increases would be phased in over a five-year period, in .5% increments.
Now that the 127th General Assembly has convened with the start of the calendar year, the bill will have to be reintroduced. Rep. Oelslager has agreed to again be a sponsor. With the reintroduction of the bill, members, employers and legislators will have an opportunity to thoroughly discuss the issue of retiree health care for Ohio's public educators. Issues that could impact the discussion include a proposed school-funding constitutional amendment, the possible reintroduction of a bill to expand alternative retirement plans offered by private vendors to K-12 educators, and heightened awareness of the retiree health care liabilities faced by all of the Ohio public pension plans.
STRS Ohio members are encouraged to continue reading their newsletters and watching the STRS Ohio Web site ( for updates about this legislative initiative and other activities at the Statehouse.
RETIREMENT, INVESTMENT TRANSACTIONS APPROVED The Retirement Board approved the following retirements and investment transactions:
- 136 active members were approved for service retirement, 193 inactive retirements were approved.
- In December, fixed-income purchases totaled $690 million, domestic equity purchases totaled $427 million and real estate purchases totaled $173 million.

STAFF COMPLETES REVIEW OF IFS AUDIT As reported to the Retirement Board and STRS Ohio members last month, Independent Fiduciary Services, Inc. (IFS) presented the results of its fiduciary performance audits of STRS Ohio and the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund at the December 2006 meeting of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC). In July 2004, the ORSC chose IRS to conduct the audits. This undertaking was the result of some members' concerns about STRS Ohio that led to language in Sub. Senate Bill 133 requiring each of the five Ohio public pension plans to undergo a fiduciary performance audit every 10 years.
The detailed 338-page report on STRS Ohio that the ORSC received includes 85 recommendations. Since receiving that report in mid-December, STRS Ohio staff have been reviewing the document and compiling responses to each recommendation. A portion of the Retirement Board's Retreat on Jan. 31 includes reviewing all the recommendations and staff responses with the board. Board members received copies of the audit last month.
Topics covered in the audit include: investment management structure and costs, asset allocation, investment accounting, board governance, and STRS Ohio's organizational structure and resources, as well as statutory provisions and administrative rules that govern the system's operation. In the executive summary that accompanied the report, IFS noted "...the results of this review demonstrate that STRS is generally in line with best practices with regard to much of its overall governance, administration and management of its investment program." Further, the report noted that "...STRS governance policies and rules are impressively comprehensive and they cover all of the significant aspects of governance a sophisticated public pension fund requires."
As part of the audits, the ORSC had requested that IFS include a thorough analysis of current state statute that requires the financial institutions that provide custodial services to all the pension plans have a presence in Ohio and, further, that the Treasurer of State has the responsibility to select, contract with, manage and terminate these custodial relationships rather than the pension plans themselves. As a result, IFS includes a number of recommendations in STRS Ohio's report calling for a change in these laws. STRS Ohio believes that changes to these statutes could result in a cost savings and thus be advantageous to our members. However, these statutes apply to all the systems and further consideration of any of IFS' recommendations should involve the systems, the Treasurer's Office and the ORSC/Legislature.
The STRS Ohio report also includes 14 recommendations that directly address the pension oversight responsibilities of the ORSC, including existing reporting requirements. Again, because the recommendations are not specifically directed to STRS Ohio, but rather to the function and operation of the ORSC, these recommendations should be addressed by the ORSC/Legislature.
Following review with the Retirement Board, the complete report and staff response to the recommendations will be posted on the STRS Ohio Web site.
SUBSTITUTE HOUSE BILL 71 EFFECTIVE MARCH 29, 2007 Substitute House Bill 71, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Taft at the end of 2006, permits members of STRS Ohio, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), School Employees Retirement System (SERS) and Highway Patrol Retirement System (HPRS) to purchase up to five years of credit for service with the Ohio National Guard or a reserve component of the United States armed forces. (Ohio Police & Fire members may already purchase this credit.) The cost is 100% of the additional liability to the system resulting from the purchase. The total maximum service credit a member may purchase for both active military service and Ohio National Guard or reserve duty is five years. Few STRS Ohio members are expected to purchase service under this new provision since members who are teaching full-time and in the National Guard or reserves during the same year already receive one year of service credit for teaching.
Members most likely to qualify for this service are those individuals who were members of the Ohio National Guard or reserves before becoming members of the system, such as during their college years. For service that does qualify, the member may purchase service equal to the number of days actually served each year divided by 365 days. In a typical year, individuals serve about 40 days with the Ohio National Guard, meaning about 0.11 service credit could be purchased for each year the guard service did not occur in the same year as full-time teaching or other Ohio public service.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY PASSES HOUSE BILL 272 The 126th General Assembly passed House Bill 272 sponsored by Rep. Michelle Schneider. One component of H.B. 272 allows, but does not require, STRS Ohio to establish programs such as a voluntary employees' beneficiary association (VEBA) and/or medical savings accounts (MSA). The vehicles, under the Internal Revenue Code, allow an individual to accumulate funds for the purpose of paying for medical expenses. If implemented, these programs would have no impact on the funding solvency or the tax treatment of the current STRS Ohio Health Care Program. STRS Ohio staff will evaluate the associated costs and practical value of this enabling legislation compared to what is currently available to members through their employers or private companies.

Molly Janczyk to Michelle Schneider: Your agenda and denying guaranteed benefits to young educators

From Molly Janczyk, January 19, 2007
Subject: From Molly - About your Alternative Retirement Plan legislation
Rep. Schneider,
Your lack of concern for educators is most apparent with your opposition to HCA legislation and this Alternate Pension Proposal. You have allegedly evidently padded your future off of nursing homes according to sources and do not have to worry about your retirement while you want introduced legislation to confuse young educators into denying themselves guaranteed benefits choosing instead alternate plans when we all know they can never save enough for their retirement and HC.
Educators are leaving their profession and or Ohio due to its lack of attention to their futures. New businesses asked to come to Ohio first wish to know what our education goals are before coming to a state so lacking and with a history of low priority for education. You are part of this problem and indifferent to our needs and pleas to you never responding or reacting pro education. You are one of 10 legislators known to be anti-friendly to educators. What a legacy you have!
You and others are being monitored to inform communities of your priorities and lack of them for educators. It is sad when personal agendas are more important than the future of our state.
Molly Janczyk

Molly Janczyk: Why not allow a little latitude when only a few are speaking?

From Molly Janczyk, January 19, 2007
Subject: RE: STRS Board Chair "hammers" Dr. Fluke out-of-order

This was so unnecessary as there were only 5 speakers. A little latitude please for our retirees coming long distances. Surely another moment of your time would have not harmed anyone as some retirees have endured untenable suffering these last few years. 45 min. is allowed for speakers. If only a few are speaking, perhaps, timing is a bit silly and overly punitive for absolutely no reason. Please! The force with which the Chair called this 75 yr old gentle man was disrespectful. It was most clear he did not hear to any in the room. This is not a rude man nor an aggressive one. We are not dots on paper or just names. This is an intelligent member of STRS who works very hard for retirees. I was insulted and embarrassed by how he was treated.
Then no microphone for Bob Jones making his speech hard to follow as it was intricate for some of us. Would it have killed anyone to politely ask him to begin again so all could hear what he was saying. No common sense was used yesterday for these 2 wonderful men who want nothing by to help others. No compassion or feeling of any kind. I cannot imagine that Dennis Leone or John Lazares would not have asked for a moment more due to number of speakers or for Bob Jones to have time to read his speech in entirety once the microphone was back up. This lack of concern for your membership is exactly what Leone and Lazares mean and what Curtis and Parshall addressed at the CORE meeting when it is said: The Board must recognize membership at times of concern (and in this case in obvious times of plain common sense and fairness. What would it have hurt? Please don't tell me schedule as you must allow time for 15 speakers when making the agenda).

STRS Board Chair "hammers" Dr. Fluke out-of-order

From RH Jones, January 19, 2007
Subject: STRS Board Chair "hammers" Dr. Fluke out-of-order

To all:
At yesterday's STRS meeting, as the SummitCRTA Legislative Committee Chair, Dr.K. Fluke, was giving his important speech concerning STRS military veterans benefits, the Active Teacher Member, Constance K. Ramser, Chair, gaveled him out-of-order for going past his allotted 3-minute time limit.
Retired educator Dr. Fluke has been a vocal ORTA and CORE leader and has previously made many speeches before the board. In past times, usually a bell was rung from the left of the podium. This time, it was not expected that any out-of-order would come from a gavel at the front chair. Dr. Fluke, being 75-years of age quite understandably does not hear as well as he did years before. Nevertheless, after Ms Ramser's verbal alert -- which Fluke could did not hear -- telling him that his time was up, he continued with his speech. It was at that time that Ramser quite loudly banged the gavel. Fluke continued on for a brief moment to explain that perhaps ROTC would quite possibly be a part of STRS military credit.
Note: Earlier in the meeting, this came to Fluke's attention after Dr. Damon Asbury, Exec. Dir., had passed out his report that included the mentioning of ROTC.
To the STRS members who are military veterans, knowing about this ROTC service time is important not only to active educators, but to those retired as well. With only 4-speakers at the public participation period of the STRS meeting, allowing 3-minutes each is only 16-minutes altogether. It is quite unusual, therefore, that a STRS retired member would not be allowed a little extra time. After all, the public speaking portion allotted for the meeting is 1-hour. It would, therefore, not be unreasonable to expect some grace in extending the rather limited 3-minute period, just a little. Dr. Fluke is gifted with the ability to talk "on-his-feet" extemporaneously. That said, you can understand that it would be difficult for him to judge his time.
Personally, my topic of public school district and state colleges, "picking-up part of some active members' retirement contribution" is a quite complicated matter to explain simply in 3-minutes. Therefore, I had to read it. Of late, the STRS meetings have grown somewhat longer and one should sympathize with the chair wishing to move the agenda.
Whatever the case, Dr. Fluke drove me on the 4-hour round trip drive from Akron to Columbus, and back, in poor driving conditions. In spite of the weather forecasts of no snow until late evening, we ran into some heavy hail going, snow and "black ice" returning. (Gas and car maintenance "ain't" cheap, either.) STRS board members, please be considerate of our sacrifices in trying to make STRS a better retirement system for all members, both active and retired.
RHJones, SummitCRTA Legislative CMTE member & a very proud CORE

Tom Cooper reports on Strickland Roundtable in Akron 1/18/07

Tom Cooper to Molly Janczyk, January 19, 2007
Subject: Strickland/Roundtable
On Thursday I opted to attend the Akron Roundtable Luncheon featuring newly elected Governor Ted Strickland. Gov. Strickland was scheduled to speak at 12:30. There was a press conference at 11:30 I was hoping to get the opportunity to ask some specific questions concerning Health Care. I did get into the press conference, and did get a seat near the front, but it was held on a flat floor with everyone on the same level, and that, coupled with the TV camera lights in his face, and some people standing in aisles, made it difficult for him to see hands beyond the first couple of rows. Some of the questions I wanted to ask were addressed, at least in general, in the press conference, and again at the luncheon speech:
He made it clear his focus is going to be on three "kitchen table" issues of jobs and the economy, education, and affordable health care.
Most notable, in the jobs front, he is negotiating with Rolls Royce to locate a plant in Ohio. It was interesting that he specifically stated that recruiting ANY major industry to locate in a new state, one of the top questions corporate people have is about the quality of education in the state, which gives further emphasis to the concept that education and economy go hand in hand.
In terms of specifics related to education, he spoke about the need to restructure school financing, and recognized that there must be "tradeoff's" and budgetary restrictions to a basis of quality. He says the Taft projection of 3 % revenue growth in 2007 is not an accurate estimate, and projections show a probable loss of $1-1/2 BILLION in 2007. The state lost a "tangible property" tax and CAF tax income.
He has approached the Gates Foundation in order to seek support for quality education programs
He is having the education dept look at how other states have streamlined the costs of education process with out reducing quality. He said he does not want to re-invent the wheel, but wants a cost effective system, which will provide more money for actual education of students.
(For example a statewide system of bulk purchases like office and building supplies, etc)
He made it very clear that he is pretty much appalled at the state of charter schools and intends to pressure that situation to become more accountable, both in terms of finances, and quality of education, or face losing their charter.
In terms of HC, he is going to petition the Fed to give Ohio some relief in terms of Medicare costs. He was not specific. He has set a goal of all state agencies and offices to cut energy costs by 5%. In terms of HC tat was pretty much all he addressed. However, and I did not know this, he authored a Children's health Insurance program as a Representative, and has also been involved in improving Veterans Health care programs, so it is not like HC is a program that doesn't have his attention.
He has set a gift limit for ALL state employees of $20. he stated that when the Akron Roundtable presented him with a gift of a pewter plate designed by Don Drumm of Akron
[It should be clear to all of us, (and I am speaking as one who is politically and fiscally conservative), that the Taft years have pretty much devastated Ohio's economic situation].
Strickland is obviously not going to just sit back and see if the state will pass more taxes to rectify some of the critical economic problems. He is going to pursue every avenue before proposing tax increases.
That's pretty much it from my notes, but if anyone has questions, I may have some recollection of anything said on a particular subject.

Dave Speas: A heads-up on the need for an emergency plan now

From Dave Speas, January 18, 2007
Subject: Re: STRS/CORE Meeting: 1/18/07
Thank you for sending this information out to all of us. I was hoping to attend but Duane is out for tests and I was afraid I could not get back by 2 pm to greet the 125 children.
I may have missed it, but I did not see any discussion of an emergency plan if the stock market takes another plunge like the one in the beginning of this century. All the discussion going on now will be of no use if we have another loss for it will mean more than healthcare.
The current actives will lose not only healthcare along with us, but a lot of their retirement because cutbacks of large proportions will take place in the retirement plan. With the current actuarial use of over 4% used for growth of salaries and the reduction of the numbers of teachers paying into the account, drastic cuts will have to be made with another catastrophe like the one that caused us to lose our exceptional healthcare benefits.
All the discussions about travel expenses, meal money, hotel bills, and etc. will be moot subjects if we are not sufficiently prepared for a truly negative event. If there is a plan afloat, I would ask that the board members ask for a report about it so that we retirees who are working to protect the retirements of the current actives, as those retirees before us worked to protect our retirements, might know about the plan. All the talk about 5% for healthcare and the effort to secure it will be wasted effort if the emergency plan and the money to fund it are not in place.
Priorities must be made, and if the board in the 80's and 90's had taken the money used to raise retirements to 88%, 3% COLA's, and payment of the 13th check and etc. and used them to protect us from the stock market plunge after 9-11, the retirees of today would not be suffering the drastic cuts in healthcare.
All the other issues are important but without the protection of an emergency plan and the funds to implement it, the danger of what can be lost makes all else pale in comparison. What is the plan, how is it to be funded, what will it do, and what is needed from everyone to implement it? I am sorry but unless this is on the front burner, the rest of the issues may not even be in play in the very near future.
Dave Speas

John Lazares' upcoming knee surgery; thoughts from Molly

From Molly Janczyk, January 18, 2007
Subject: Lazares/ Misc. 1/18/07
John Lazares will have surgery Mon. 1/22/07. He is worried that members may email or call him and not know he is unable to respond. He wants all to know he is not able to do so for some time and will let us know when he can again email or speak on phone. They are expecting 4 months healing. A knee replacement, and this is his second on the same knee due to complications he has endured this past year and a half, is a lengthy recuperation -- more so even than a hip replacement which my husband had. More constant bending.
.....John Lazares [wife is Trish]
.....8133 Devonshire Pl.
Maineville, OH 45039
Home phone: 1-513-583-7611
Cell: 1-513-967-8786
E-mail: (uses his cell for this)
Please remember: We will let you know when he is able to take calls and emails. Meanwhile, I will be cking on him (I am sure others will be too) and keeping you updating on his condition. He will be in a lot of pain for a while (hoping then his pain will be over with his healing) and going to rehap as soom as he is able which is pretty extensive being a constantly bending joint. John thanks you for all who expressed concern today for him requesting updates and his address.
Some very nice things happened to me today.
Don Bright, Pres. of ORTA, introduced himself to me most graciously as I passed by.
Lou DiOrio introduced me to the esteemed Dr. Hill, I believe of OSU who served as Pres. of the OSU Retired Assoc. What a pleasant articulate gentleman who is very interested in STRS issues. He stated he is seeing some progress lately.
I spoke with Bill L. re: HCA legislation which I told you and to Herschel Grimm of OFT re: filling Tom Mooney's difficult to fill shoes. He does feel positive that some possibilities are present.
People really seemed to be ready to reach out and open doors to us. I hope this is as they said, a new year with many new possibilities and political environments. They seemed excited about being able to reach goals and thus, more ready to communicate them and make efforts to work collaboratively. There was a feeling of more unification over common issues. Perhaps this was part of the situation -- that not feeling positive about being able to deliver some chose not to state what was uncertain. I hope this is a new beginning and we can all stand together where we agree and discuss what where we may differ with each other in meetings as we did today with respect and professionalism. The tone was upbeat and positive. I feel like many have said: If we do not do everything we can to pass HC legislation and work on these other legislative proposals, we are remiss and irresponsible.
It seems the Board generally is hearing Leone and Lazares on travel issues and ready to make changes. The atmosphere has been more towards at least hearing and seemingly considering all opinions lately. Conni has asked what makes a Board Member comfortable for acceptance which is a good thing. It seems they are talking until all are comfortable or can agree on pts. vs. just voting something down. I hope it is as it appears and moves on growing from this point to stronger collaborative efforts. I love nothing better than being able to compliment and hope I am accurate.
As Dave Parshall said today: The Board must show they understand when the membership is not happy. Lots was said, but in good ways to all.

Molly Janczyk: A report on STRS/CORE meetings, January 18, 2007

From Molly Janczyk, January 18, 2007
STRS/CORE Meeting: 1/18/07

My opinion and assessment:
Gary Allen joined us to speak of common goals. It was a congenial, interactive and informative meeting. Glenna Barr will present minutes of the CORE meeting specifics. All were professional and respectful. Mostly topics of legislative goals and bills were discussed with ques. and ans. and suggestions by both sides. There were a couple of legitimate questions and statements addressing the plight of retirees and current board members in general which Gary addressed.
Some legislative issues: Allen:
1. SB206: WEP. Only 4 legislators so far signed on. Email and contact legislators as this is a total repeal of the Offset Laws. Allen is very adament Offset laws are wrong for retirees who earned and need their Soc. Sec. money or spouses of recipients.
2. School Funding : uncontstitutional for over a decade. Now all education grps. back legislation to identify costs per student. Write Sherrod Brown and Strickland and other legislators to support this legislation.
3. Alternate Retirement legislation: HB700: This legis. has to be dealt with; wrong! Schneider supports it. She made a fortune off nursing homes and needs to be contacted about educators' retirement pensions. OEA keeping records of who supports what issues.
Ann Hanning and Lou DiOrio spoke to us as well informing us of all steps being taken regarding several bills and pending legislation affecting us. I, as a member of all organizations present, asked they continue to speak to us as this enables communication which we have wanted. Also, it goes a long way to inform membership of what is being done on behalf of retirees.
Those I spoke with felt it was a positive meeting promoting collaborative efforts.
The HCA legislation must be reintroduced. Bill Leibensperger told me that it would be and there was a sponsor . There may be more than one sponsor. Gary Allen told us to wait to contact legislators until it was reintroduced. When it is time for us to act, the website of OEA will have steps and options to follow. OEA will let us know.
I was proud of all my organizations today. I have notes on the rest of the meeting but am sure Glenna will be comprehensive.
PM Meeting:
Leone to Damon: Gov. Strickland has made an executive order for state agencies to put in writing and make it available to the public reasons for awarding big contracts. I know we a not a state agency but how will STRS address this. Damon: We are not directly impacted being a quasi state agency but we are affected and want to comply. We will look into this and determine how to convey info. Leone: Also, Strickland's orders state meetings must be made available to those who cannot attend and how is it being addressed? Damon: The subcommittee and the IT dept. are looking at this.
Lazares: Proposed legislation: We must be very aware of pending legis. and speak to legislators. Schneider's aide said the HB700 will happen. Be aware and ready to contact legislators.
1. Vivian Brown: 40 yr educator. 33 yrs with 7 yrs as sub. Thank you for trying to keep HC affordable. Used to be relatively low costs but now increasing until Washington does something about it. Talk with School Boards, powers to be in Ohio, to support HCA legislation. I worked for 40 yrs for retirement with HC. Please keep trying -- work together -- don't allow the past to impede progress or render you inactive. We are depending on you -- all of you -- to do whatever it takes to keep things moving.
2. Dr. K. Fluke: 21 years retired. Grateful for what I have. I respect the counselors but there should be a standard of operations: SOP. Ask every member what their military experience is to establish if qualify for benefits. I was denied Military Reserve credit and Damon contacted Gary Russell for me to get benefits. I do not understand parallel time: If 12 months parallel -- 3 months should not be counted as parallel credit. HB71: Ohio Nat'l guard can purchase 5 yrs. What about amendments for ROTC to add them to bill? People fall thru the cracks. Counselors need to ask each member about their military involvement as a SOP.
There were 5 speakers. Up to 15 can be allowed. Though there were only 5, Dr. Fluke was called out of order by chair Ramser when his 3 min. elapsed. Dr. Fluke drove from Summit Co.
3. Robt. Jones: Addressed the 'pick up' policy by some school boards. When employer pick up employees' contributions or part in leiu of pay raises, STRS loses. It is employer money and should be part of raises for educators. Not cost neutral. STRS loses investment income esp. if given last 3 yrs of career. Never rt. for a LSD to give to 1 or few what rest of employees do not receive.
As Leone said, I feel we are at infinity due to lower than expected growth rate of 4.5%. We are at 2.03%. Educators are down in numbers and leaving state. If trend continues, can't use the 4.5% formula. STRS loses.
4. Nancy Boomhower: part time rehire after career teaching. Topic: Legal or Ethical: Legal to spend $60 on dinner; is it ethical? Legal to spend up to $6000 on seminar; is it ethical?
Ben Franklin said pennies add up; what is only a drop in the bucket to STRS and wouldn't pay for HC anyway is a huge drop for retirees.
Childcare still not cost neutral. Not asking to close it, just fund it by those who use it by lowering salaries and reducing staff. Doesn't take a degree to change a diaper. Make it cost neutral! Ethical!
Retirees choose ethical every time. STRS: Choose Ethical!
5. Tom Curtis: Many votes make no sense to me from this Board continuing gross misspending. My feeling is unfunded liability is infinity due to Leone's pt. on projected growth rate not at 4.5%. So this affects liability. Board can't continue to rubber stamp what Damon wants. Weigh decisions by those we know we can trust. To the Chair: You embarrassed yourself with media negative comments about Leone and never apologized to my knowledge. I will mention this until you apologize to Leone.
Extend the 3 min for those driving far to get here when under 15 speakers on list. Time is allotted for 15 so time is available. Show respect for what they came to speak to you about.
Following the speakers, Leone revisited the pt. of 'pickups.' Robt. Jones' microphone was out for part of his speech which I tried to catch best I could above. I do not completely understand this issue so will try to address their comments as accurately as I can:
Leone stated this is not a non issue as all the money that would have come to STRS does not if LSB's elect to pay part or all of an employee's contributions instead of a pay raise. He said this affects the projected growth rate as raises are not then part of the contributions to STRS. Slater says it is a pass and have been around for 25 yrs. mostly for superintendents and higher education staff. He says if LSB pay part of contribution instead of raise, no change for STRS and STRS gets the growth as well if there is a raise.
On $50,000: 10% contribution is $5000. If employer picks up or if there is a raise, result same. Contributions are made on combined salary + pickup, not just salary so no change for STRS.
**Someone who understands this, feel free to clarify this butchered attempt on my part.
Travel Revisions Discussion:
Leone: $5 breakfast, $10 lunch, $20 dinner. Not allowance of total for day as someone could use total just for one meal.
Discussion of who can submit for reimbursement for meals and mileage for after stays of Board meetings and for any meeting:
.....• Participant to read: invited and submit documentation of activity asked to perform such as committee or as Rep for STRS to address attendees in a capacity not just attending as self proclaimed available to ans. ques. so submit expenses for a meeting a Board Member chose or wished to attend.
.....• Invited speaker
.....• The Chair of the STRS Board would have such duties due to position (Lazares).
Leone and Lazares agreed that INVITED speakers should be reimbursed. Puckett wanted to know if they were repping STRS if speaking to a RTA. (directly targeting Leone, it seemed). Leone stated he was invited as an STRS Board Member. Lazares added anyone can say what they want as speaker but they are they repping Board; no power without entire Board. If invited to speak, get reimbursed.
Leone questioned why new policy excludes fees and tuition. Damon noted costs of fees and materials can run $2000 alone without air or hotel. A national seminar has been recommended by some and lasts 5 days.
Lazares: several times throughout: We must be very careful spending others' money when they (retirees) are suffering. ORSC is looking at us and looking for us to be prudent. We have to overextend in not spending to show our responsibility. As leaders, it is very important for us to justify spending as long as we have retirees suffering.
Leone: never a cooling off period from scandal of Board Members who enjoyed others' money. If LSB's had done such, no one would attend next year. Folks would be fired. This new board has never understood the effect of this spending on parties and booze on retirees. Retirees do not get a vote on spending as folks do with levies.
Hotels: Puckett wants to see State allowances for hotels as feels STRS' too high at $125 plus txes in state and up to $225 in NY, and some other cities.
Leone: I agree but never thought I'd get agreement on more than meals.
Damon: said these are national figures.
Johnson wants to see what legislators use as their allowances and then what public employees use to compare. He doesn't expect to turn in any receipts and doesn't expect to be reminded of use.
Topic to be revisited at Feb Retreat. Leone concerned Lazares unable to attend due to surgery and if he cannot attend, travel changes won't occur. Lazares: "Take it now to ORSC."
Wording to be looked into in some areas and it was asked when it can be presented to ORSC which it must be. Feb. seemed to stand since it was stated by Ramser not complete yet.
3% increases:
Ques: Board approved AON? Damon: Yes
Ques. arose re: 3% increase based on national competitive rates..
Johnson: Rationing up salary to stay competitive beyond 62% AON report for current year and meet new requirements.
Leone: Does the salary schedule change due to 3%?
Damon: only begin, mid pt. and end pt. levels. Not all across board -- esp. if top of range for their job.
Lazares: What was total cost for 3% budgeted for raises for this fiscal year? Slater: $1.2 million.
Leone: number impacted by the 3% new competitive rate recommended?
Damon: no change for this year until budget settled for next year.
Not everyone gets merit raises within their salary range and those at top of range get no more at this time.
This is for new hires and those not exceeding their salary ranges and only if recommended for competitive merit raise. not something automatic for all.
Brooks: new investment Board Member: this is the norm; shows market pts. for jobs; not across board for anyone; adjust market pts. as market indicates not yearly necessarily.
Slater: not like educators with raises yearly and then steps.
Indepen. Fiduciary Audit completed: all findings norm and approved. I will be more specific if not included in Exec Direc Report STRS puts out. It is long. This was part of Damon's report.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dr. K. Fluke’s speech to STRS Board, January 18, 2007

Dr. K. Fluke’s speech to STRS Board

January 18, 2007


Issuance of Service Credit for Military Service

  • My application for “Free Military Service” was rejected on the basis of parallel time and that all non-military service was not eligible

  • Apparently, STRS and those counseling at retirement are not current regarding the differences of service credit, i.e., Active Reserve, Inactive Reserve and National Guard. There is a need for an S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedure) publication that will delineate eligibility, procedures for application, etc.

  • Lame Duck legislation introduced by Representative J. Stewart recently passed and allows National Guard service for the purchase of service credit.

  • If STRS and ORSC are afraid of “breaking the bank” and issuing military credit, then it is recommended that STRS survey all active and retired beneficiaries to determine those persons with active, non-active and National Guard service. That would establish eligibility for service credit since this eligibility could be retroactive by law to 1953 and beyond and include all those in military periods, i.e., Korea, Cuba, Viet Nam, Grenada, Somalia, etc.

  • My military activity is not designed to take away any military service considerations such as P.O.W. and war zone Red Cross service. My concern is that inactive military service subject to recall by the President and Congress be recognized as is active military service. When one is teaching and receiving promotions in the Inactive Reserve, there is more than a little stress to the individual who might be recalled, as is happening today, with the emphasis on recalling and recalling the reserves.

K.W. Fluke, Ph.D. – Captain USAF (1967 Honorable Discharge)

Life Member of the American Legion

Legislative Chair of Summit County Retired Teachers

Akron, Ohio


Military Legislation and STRS 2006

Several members of SCRTA attended STRS Board meetings (two meetings) addressing the issuance of “FREE MILITARY SERVICE” up to ten years. Legislatively, this has been by law Ohio Revised Code since 1953 and could be received by retirees or active STRS persons who qualify. The manner in which STRS presents the “FREE MILITARY SERVICE” and qualifications needs review, especially since many current military persons and teachers, some of whom may have been recalled reserves, will need to know, without question, if they might receive free military service for enhancement of their STRS pension. It appears that STRS is not giving free service to those who served in the inactive reserves and received an honorable discharge for this service, if this inactive reserve time was parallel to teaching time. At present, the specifications in the STRS “FREE MILITARY SERVICE” bulletin are vague and confusing, without specific entries itemized for qualifying; i.e., the present writing appears to give consideration for inactive reserve time. At several of the STRS Board meetings, legislative members of SCRTA attended and addressed the issues and had an audience with Gary Russell, STRS Benefits, who said at present, few qualified, and there is a need for this publication to be rewritten. Possibly, there are some retired STRS beneficiaries who may qualify from other conflicts from 1953 on when the legislation was passed.

Since many provisions for military and pension are honored by Ohio Legislation, and STRS, i.e., war zone Red Cross and P.O.W. Why is inactive reserve while teaching given no consideration – staying in the reserve while teaching is stressful. The specter of recall is ever present. Congress/President by federal law can recall this career teacher for a period of 8 years or longer. Obviously, this presents a disruption of career, absence from family, etc.

Military service benefits for pension purposes should be continued by law in STRS. However, the inactive reserve should be recognized and given a pension benefit for time served. ORTA should pursue this and not be swayed by STRS and ORSC interpretations. Many of those making the interpretations have had little or no military experience, especially inactive reserve time. SCRTA legislative committee members will request our SCRTA legislative members to write/submit a bill to recognize inactive reserve qualifications for military STRS pension benefit. The inactive reserve obligation is a federal law mandate; why not Ohio State law in recognition of this?

K.W. Fluke, Ph.D.

SCRTA Legislative Chairman

Honorably Discharged Active Duty USAF

Honorably Discharged Captain Air Force Reserve (11 years service)


From the STRS website:

Military Service in the U.S. Armed Forces: Active & Inactive

Table designed to help you compare the impact various types of credit can have on your STRS Ohio benefits

RH Jones: Speech to STRS Board, January 18, 2007

RH Jones’ speech to STRS Board

January 18, 2007

Good afternoon. My name is Robert Hudson Jones. I have been an STRS retired member since 1986. I represent my SummitCRTA Legislative Committee and the CORE group.

This speech is regarding: In lieu of pay raises, some school board employers are approving the paying for a percentage of the employee’s contribution into our STRS.

Surging forward, my thanks to our STRS Executive Director, Damon Asbury, for his prompt reply to my inquiry into this matter; however, after reading his letter, additional observations came to mind: As with ex-President Clinton’s question as to the definition of the word “is,” what is the definition of a pay raise? To me, awarding money in the form of “picking up” part of the present 10% portion of the employee STRS contribution is in fact a pay raise. Had the employer not paid the STRS, the employee would have paid the STRS at that time as part of his/her base pay.

Sounds simple? Yes. But let me try to explain this further: We all know that the IRS allows the educator to pay no income tax on the money he/she draws out of the STRS until all the employee’s contributions in to the STRS are used up. Then the retired educator pays taxes on all retirement checks from there on. However, the employer, “picking up,” an employee’s contribution percentage is not employee STRS money; fittingly, it is technically employer money and should, instead, go into increased base pay in a timely fashion with any taxes paid “up front.”

Employee compensation should always be done in this straightforward manner. It is right that the employer pays the STRS 14%, and the employee pays 10%. Any employer/employee contribution above this combined 24% in the base is both fine and good for the system. It has been long overdue in coming. Rightly, an employer/employee 2.5% combined together to a 5% increase is currently what we are asking of the legislature. Nothing should put this increased contribution in jeopardy.

Additionally, and most importantly, common sense tells me that the employee “pickup” is not cost neutral for the STRS. The key point is: By not paying this “pickup” into the many regular consecutive yearly income gains in employee base salary increases, the STRS obviously loses a chance to grow investment income. Clearly, then, without the compounding in a “pickup” award would, therefore, yield the STRS less. And, the STRS collateral growth would be hurt even more if the “pickup” percentage awarded to the employee is only in the final 3-year average years. When it comes at the expense of the long term health of the system, is not our STRS studying ways to grow the base funding by stopping members from inflating the final 3-year average? If not, the STRS should be.

And, finally, even though all professional employees may currently be eligible for the so-called “pickup,” it is never right at any given time in a school district to award it to just one, or a few, if it is not given to all educators. After all, we STRS members are all equal after retirement. As one of my teaching assignments was the teaching of mathematics, I cannot see how “pickups” adds up. It just does not compute. By whom, where and how did it ever get started in the first place? Whatever, for the common good of all Buckeyes, we need put an end to “pickups” now.

Nancy Boomhower’s speech to STRS Board, January 18, 2007

Nancy Boomhower’s speech to STRS Board

January 18, 2007

Good afternoon. My name is Nancy Boomhower. I am a retired first grade teacher from Medina County. I retired with 31¾ years credit and now am a part time rehire who teaches GED at the county jail.

Legal or Ethical, that is the question! What is legal is not always ethical.

We seem to have two different agendas going on here. Teachers expect ethical, but STRS seems to operate by legal.

As Ben Franklin said, “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” This is the ethical thing to do, yet we keep hearing the refrain, “It’s only a drop in the bucket and it wouldn’t pay for much healthcare.” My feeling is that if we follow Ben’s advice and watch the pennies – the drops will fill the bucket and make a positive impact on healthcare. This is the ethical thing to do.

What are some of these drops? Well, the C. James Grothaus Child Care Facility is one of them. A few months ago, I spoke on the subject of the child care center and pointed out why it is operating in the red. Still you continue to operate it in the red when it would be so easy to make it cost-effective by cutting staff and/or bringing wages into line with what is paid across the industry. Remember, it doesn’t take a degree to change a diaper. Other daycare facilities are charging the same fees and making a profit. I do not ask that you make a profit; I do not ask that it be closed. All I do ask is that it be operated and cost-neutral. That is the ethical thing to do!

Expense accounts are another drop in the bucket. Is it legal to spend $60 on one meal? Yes! Is it ethical? No! Is it legal to extend your time at a seminar at STRS expense? Yes! Is it ethical? No!

These are only a couple of examples of ethical vs. legal. I ask that you choose the ethical path in all of your actions as an STRS Board member! Thank you.

CORE meeting scheduled for Thursday, January 18, 2007 at STRS

Location: STRS Building, 275 E. Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215 (free parking in the STRS parking garage off S. 6th Street) Click here for map and directions.
Room: Cafeteria room behind the Sublett Room, second floor
Time: Thursday, January 18, 11:45 a.m.
Speaker: Gary Allen, president of OEA
Topic: Common Goals
Also note:
• Please try to attend the 9:00 a.m. STRS Board meeting, same day, sixth floor Board Room. Attendance by CORE members is extremely important, as it demonstrates our support for Board members Dennis Leone and John Lazares, who have been knocking themselves out for our interests against strongly backed adversaries. The other Board members NEED to see our numbers; otherwise, it hurts our credibility.
• You may plan to leave the Board meeting at 11:30 a.m.if you want time to go through the cafeteria line; you can eat your lunch during the 11:45 CORE meeting.
• Please plan to attend and sign up to speak during the Public Speaks portion of the STRS meeting, around 1:30. Speeches are limited to three minutes.
Remember: CORE NEEDS YOU; it's YOUR future. This is NOT the time to "let George do it."

STRS Board meeting January 17-18, 2007

The State Teachers Retirement Board and Committee meetings currently scheduled at the STRS Ohio offices, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, are as follows:
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
....1:00 p.m. Disability Review Panel (Executive Session)
Thursday, January 18, 2007
....8:30 a.m. Audit Committee Meeting
....9:30 a.m. Retirement Board Meeting
....4:00 p.m. Special Health Care Committee
The Retirement Board meeting will come to order at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 18. The Board is expected to receive reports from the Information Technology Services Department and Investment Department, address routine matters and any other topics that may require its attention. The public participation portion of the Board's agenda is expected to follow the Executive Director's Report (1:00 p.m.). The meeting is not expected to continue on Friday, January 19, 2007.

Reminder from Molly: CORE/STRS Board meetings next week (Jan. 17-18, 2007)

From Molly Janczyk, January 10, 2007
Subject: STRS/CORE: Public Notice "Text" January 17-18, 2007
Please plan to attend the STRS/CORE meeting on Thurs. 1/18/07. CORE will meet on the second floor in the rear Sublett Room adjacent to the cafeteria. If you wish lunch, please go thru the cafeteria at 11:30 so the meeting can begin at 11:45 am.
Gary Allen will address CORE at noon speaking to common goals. He reads Kathie's blog and called our President, Dave Parshall, asking to speak with us feeling we have much in common.
Please attend the STRS Board meeting to support Lazares and Leone who fight for membership issues. Public Speak is 1 pm and all speakers are welcome. Speakers deliver addresses as individuals speaking to their concerns and points of interest.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New e-mail address?

Have you changed your e-mail address lately? If so, and you are not receiving CORE Alerts or other CORE e-mail, please let us know. You may notify John Curry at If you were receiving CORE e-mail from someone else, please let them know, too. We don't want to lose you!

An outcry from a retiree

From a central Ohio retiree, January 17, 2007
Subject: Alternative Retirement Plans for Teachers and School Employees
Why in Heaven's name aren't each and every retired teachers' associations jumping on this crisis in the legislature and sending out letters to every member in their organization???? What is the State Teachers Retirement System doing about this??? It's an equally serious threat to each and every member of that board. Are they asleep??? Who will listen to CORE'S cries about this??? Surely the board cares enough about their own pensions to rise up and speak with a LOUD VOICE!!! Why isn't some journalist covering this distressful situation?? I don't subscribe to a Columbus paper, and I haven't seen anything about it in our local paper about it.

(XXX) (Thanks for your alert.)

An earful for Michelle Schneider from one of her own constituents

Sharon Faust-Dyke to Rep. Michelle Schneider, January 17, 2007
Subject: alternative retirement plans for Ohio K-12 teachers
Dear Representative Schneider:
I have been a supporter of yours in the past, and I live in Amberley Village in District 35. I have just found out that you are sponsoring legislation that would require school boards to establish alternative retirement plans for K-12 teachers and other school employees.
For such legislation to become law would destroy the stability of the pension system at our State Teachers Retirement System. This system has worked very well for Ohio's retired teachers for many decades; there is no credible reason to change it now.
With our health care already seriously eroded, the destruction of our pension system will put many thousands of retired teachers on the rolls of Ohio's welfare system. Is this what our legislators want for Ohio's retired teachers and Ohio's taxpayers?
My husband, David Dyke, is an educator with Ohio State University in the horticulture department. He was given this option several years ago, and he took it. He was given only one choice of an investment company--ING. He was also promised that he was vested in STRS for health care purposes. He has lost a tremendous amount of his future retirement income (no guarantees as with a state pension), and he is most certainly not vested for health care. If we were both retired at this time, he could purchase health care on my STRS for 508.00 a month. My health care with 30 years in the system is now 130.00 a month. I am still teaching at Walnut Hills High School because I am afraid of what will become of STRS. Reading about your sponsorship of this bill makes me wonder why you would want the future disintegration of STRS. Did you hate your public school teachers, or did you attend private or parochial school? I'm only teasing, but this is truly a serious matter.
Sharon Faust-Dyke
Amberley Village

Letter to Congressman Regula

Kathie Bracy to Ralph Regula, January 17, 2007
Dear Congressman Regula,
I just blogged your letter (below) to Tom Cooper, a retired teacher in your district and an active member of CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators), a grassroots group of mostly retired Ohio teachers who are working diligently to reform our State Teachers Retirement System and restore it to its former status as a pension system we can justifiably be proud of. You are undoubtedly aware of the corruption that has shamefully tarnished its good name in recent years, under our trusting and unsuspecting noses. While a number of miscreants have been convicted of ethics charges, with more to come, there is much work to be done to restore our healthcare to an acceptable level. Currently, there is a new hole in the dike: possible legislation in the Ohio House to require school boards to establish alternative retirement plans for K-12 teachers and other school employees. My fear is that this would destroy our pension system and thousands of retired teachers in this state could easily end up on Ohio's welfare rolls some day.
I want to thank you for co-sponsoring H.R. 147 and to encourage you to continue to work to get this through Congress. Many retired teachers, myself included, would benefit greatly from the passage of this Act. We worked very hard for extra income to supplement our modest teacher salaries, and did not deserve to have it snatched away from us by greedy people down in Washington. Thousands of retirees need every penny they can get to survive in their so-called "Golden Years," especially with STRS having selfishly squandered millions of dollars of our "gold" for their own benefit, greatly jeopardizing our healthcare, especially now that our very pensions are on the line.
If you are interested in learning more about what a number of Ohio retired teachers (and actives) are saying these days, go to my blog; it's all there: You and I did meet one time; my husband, Carl, introduced me to you and Mary. He's been gone 30 years, so it's been a while. I'm glad to see that you still serve on Mount Union's board. I've been teaching there part time since 1999. It's still a thrill to drive past that big, beautiful science building with those big, bold letters "Bracy Hall" carved in stone over the entryway. Carl would have been so pleased. Go Raiders! (Yes, I got to the Stagg Bowl last month.)
Thank you for all that you do for all of us. Please give my best to Mary.
Kathie Bracy
Columbus, OH
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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