Saturday, January 23, 2010

A retired educator's letter to a Sidney State Representative who sponsored a bill (HB 400) to eliminate the state income tax.

From John Curry, January 23, 2010
...of course he (Rep. John Adams) never did tell the good people of Ohio how governmental bodies would make up for the difference. You didn't think he would, did you?
This letter below is written by a Sidney, Ohio retired educator - Douglas Benson, and published in the Jan. 22, 2009 Sidney Daily News. Thank you, Douglas!
P.S. Maybe one of John's buddies in the "other House," the U.S. House of Representatives, could introduce a similar bill to eliminate the federal income tax.....the rednecks would also jump on that bandwagon, wouldn't they? Hey...Jim Jordan might just be the man! How 'bout it, John Adams, care to give Jim a call?
Shifting the tax burden
To the editor:
Rep. Adams must have been thrilled at the Jan. 20 Sidney Daily News headline. What better way to begin one's re-election campaign than to laud his efforts to eliminate Ohio's personal income tax!
Most find the idea of paying fewer taxes appealing. We all must balance our personal budgets by controlling both income and expenses; so do state and local governments and agencies. Mr. Adams makes a very specific proposal on the income side, but he fails to offer specifics on the expense side.
His bill amends Section 5747.02 of the Ohio Revised Code, which specifies that income tax revenue be used for the general revenue fund, the local government fund and the public library fund. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission estimates that in fiscal year 2011, HB 400 would result in a loss of $768 million to the general fund (prisons, education, Medicaid, governmental operations, etc.) $30 million to the local government fund (direct assistance to the cities, counties, townships) and $16 million to public libraries. These reductions would increase each year until FY 2020, when the total loss of revenue is estimated at more than $12 billion dollars per year.
Mr. Adams contends that eliminating the income tax will lure business and industry to Ohio, and it will keep Ohioans from leaving the state. What business wants to move to a community that has limited police and fire protection, underfunded and overcrowded schools, a barely serviceable water and sanitation system, no public library? What community is going to let those services decline? Not many; but how will they maintain a decent level of service? Easy! They will have to raise the money locally through higher local income taxes, higher sales taxes, higher real estate taxes and increased service fees. Is there waste? Can spending be reduced? Certainly! But to the extent of $800 million next year and $12 billion in 10 years? I think not!
Mr. Adams owes us a specific explanation of how the expense side of our state and local budgets will be adjusted to compensate for the loss of revenue the state personal income tax provides. We all know that in the end, the real source of funds to maintain public services is us, the taxpayers. Mr. Adams is all too willing to take the credit for cutting taxes collected at the state level. Is he equally willing to take the blame for shifting the burden of raising funds to the local level?
Douglas Benson
Sidney, Ohio

Thursday, January 21, 2010

RH Jones: Write to your newspaper

From RH Jones, January 20, 2010
Subject: A reminder to write "Letters to the Editor"

To all:
Please write a "Letter to the Editor" of your local newspapers. If you are unable to write, ask a family member or a friend. The address of each newspaper is always printed therein, somewhere in the paper.
A couple days ago, I sent you a sample letter approved by CORE's President Dave Parshall, and their (our) Media committee. If we do not fight right now with our writing pens, we will slip even further in trying to maintain and improve our OH STRS Defined Benefits. As each day goes by, due to inflation, our pension buys us less for our needs and especially our HC/Rx. Everyone is fairly certain that we cannot expect any kind of good HC/Rx legislation to come out of Washington. We will be lucky to protect what we have. However, getting the public on our side requires us to educate them in the media; as retired educators, we are great in selling. We had to sell education to students in order for them to be able function successfully in their modern world. We cannot let them forget those of us in retirement who taught them.
RHJones, a retired teacher member of OH STRS

Minutes of the January 14, 2010 CORE Meeting

From Marie Fetters, January 21, 2010
The Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE) held the first meeting of the year on Jan. 14, 2010 in the Sublett Room at the STRS Building. President Dave Parshall opened the meeting at 11:45, welcoming the 12 members who were present. After the reading of the minutes by Marie Fetters, secretary, the minutes were approved by the group.
Treasurer Herman Fisher reported that the funds in the treasury were sound. Even though we are financially okay for now, larger membership is still wanted and needed. (There will undoubtedly be expenses in the group’s future as we endeavor to get our messages out to retirees and current teachers.)
President Dave told the membership that the position statement committee was slated to meet on Friday, the 15th. He stressed the need to begin getting our message out as soon as possible in order to counter the negative retiree pension coverage in the news lately. The committee will construct a paper which will re-direct attention from teachers’ retirements to their own. The final result will be sent via e-mail to CORE members so that they may use the facts and disseminate correct information to local papers, legislators, and the public.
Discussion about our use of the word ‘benefit” followed. Since “benefits” has the connotation of something free or taxed, “deferred compensation “ is a more accurate and explanatory phrase to use. (As Lou DiOrio has stated more than once, it’s his mission to change that wording since we all did contribute to our own pension system.)
Much more lively discussion followed, stressing our need to quickly finalize our position statement. The consensus of those who were present was that retirees and current teachers need to read it when it’s completed. We all need to be well-informed and active. Also, many members realized that we should not be attacking STRS; we need to be on the same side, working to help correct the misinformation, which is currently circulating about our STRS pension.
President Dave informed the group of his intention to step down as president in September. Not wanting to spring it on membership in the fall, he wanted members to have time to consider who would be willing to serve as the next CORE president. The meeting adjourned at 12:50 in order for people to go back upstairs to attend the remainder of the STRS Board Meeting.
Respectfully submitted,
Marie M. Fetters

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

STRS Board retreat scheduled for January 27 - 29, 2010

From STRS, January 20, 2010
A special meeting of the State Teachers Retirement Board will be held on Jan. 27, 28 and 29, 2010, for the purpose of a planning retreat and any other matters that may arise. The meeting will be held at the STRS Ohio offices in Columbus, Ohio.
The business agenda will begin 11 a.m. on Wed., Jan. 27, and 9 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 28 and 29, 2010.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ralph Roshong's speech to STRS Board, January 14, 2010

Ralph Roshong
January 14, 2010
TO: STRS Board Members FROM: Ralph Roshong
RE: General Comments
XC: State Legislators
Pages 2
I am a 1991 retiree into the STRS and I thank you for listening to my comments again. I welcome Dr. Martin to the Board and look forward to hearing his input on our issues.
1. As I have commented before, I support a bonus program for our investment staff. However, I am not in favor of our current program. There is too much differentiation in the bonus percentages after a highly differentiated base salary schedule. It is difficult to swallow your goal of an anticipated 8% gain in our investments and then our investment personnel are scheduled to receive up to 90% bonuses of their base salaries. Our country is overwhelmingly unhappy with exorbitant bonuses, exemplified by Wall Street who have been characterized as "poker players playing a $100,000 card game each day and if they win, they keep the pot, but if they lose, the government (taxpayers) pays the bill".
2. I also am confused in your long range planning that you use a goal of 8% gain when the past 10 years have only seen approximately an average of 6% gain.
3. When the Board, back in 1999, instituted the 35 year/88.5% retirement program, where was the ORSC, our oversight committee? The Board's unwise decision was similar to a teenager given a couple dollars. They could not wait to get to a store fast enough and spend it. This displayed their ABSOLUTE LACK OF STRATEGIC PLANNING AND RESPONSIBILITY.
4. APPRECIATION goes to the benefits department for the educational programs coming up, to the benefits department for the changeovers in our insurance programs, to the finance department for our checks on time and conversion to a new computer program, and to the investment department for another good month in December.
5. I heard our director report that the HPA (healthcare pension advocates committee) will present an alternate change plan for you to consider. This is after more than year long process of input that you exercised before presenting OUR plan to the ORSC. I feel they have been provided an un-elected seat to the Board and had their chance for input. I really do not know how you provided them so much un-elected power. YOU ARE OUR BOARD and have presented our plan to ORSC. Let it proceed. HPA deserves no more reconsideration than any of us.
6. I support the initiatives you are considering for continued improvement of our pension system.
7. I once again ask you to consider holding all or a portion of your scheduled executive sessions at the start of the meeting in the morning rather than an elongated lunch hour during which your guests have to sit for 2-2.5 hours with no Board business to witness.
8. I again request the amount of square footage of the STRS building and ask for some response that we might have office space available to rent to other groups. We appear to have a lot of space that could be utilized for potential income.
Thank you again for listening to my concerns and we retirees are very appreciative of your efforts in directing our STRS pension fund.

RH Jones to ORTA and OEA-R: Are you fiddling while Rome burns?

From RH Jones, January 19, 2010
Subject: Re: Three pro-public Ohio pension letters in today's Toledo Blade...
To all:
Has anyone seen a message from our ORTA or OEA-R in any of the Ohio newspapers? I haven't. You will notice below that AFSCME, the union for public workers, and OPERS, the union of politicians and STRS employees have written. Without any response from these retired teacher unions to this negative attack on all public pensions (the worst attack in history on Ohio's hard working public servants) we can expect the legislature to cut us up, and no one else. Even if education = prosperity, some ignoramuses in the legislature want us in the poor house. They will get their way, if we let them.
Many CORE members have written to multiple OH newspapers, I being one of them: but, come-on ORTA and OEA-R, do your duty. From our dues money, this is the least we can ask for; or, would you rather spend the money running around the state attending social gatherings, rather than real meetings?
Get with it! Make it happen! Are you standing around as Rome burns? Write; that is what we educators are good at. Just do it!
RHJones, the individual opinion of a proud member of CORE

Three pro-public Ohio pension letters in today's Toledo Blade...

From John Curry, January 19, 2010
Toledo Blade, January 19, 2010
Pensions a good deal for Ohio
The Blade's Jan. 10 editorial "Curb pension costs" didn't increase awareness of the challenges facing Ohio's public employee pension system.
First, unlike workers in the private sector, the majority of Ohio public employees will never receive Social Security benefits.
Second, contrary to your claims, eliminating "defined benefit" plans in favor of 401(k)-style "defined contribution" plans carries a higher price tag than leaving benefits as they are. After all, 401(k)s were intended to supplement pension plans, not replace them.
Third, your editorial's basic premise, that maintaining the current pension system will require "ruinous tax hikes," doesn't hold water. The reality is that government kicks in only 25 cents for every dollar paid in benefits to a retired public worker. The rest is funded by investment returns and by employees.
Today, for every dollar in benefits paid, Ohio's public pension system returns $1.33 to the state economy. Each year, retired public employees spend $8.4 billion in Ohio.
True, Ohio's public pension system needs to be reformed. In the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, we are willing to do our part. However, that can only begin when we recognize that a strong pension system providing decent benefits isn't part of the problem; it's part of the solution.
John A. Lyall
President, AFSCME Ohio Council 8, AFL-CIO
Columbus Public workers unfairly punished
Public retirees must pay Ohio income tax on their pensions, while 24 other states offer exemptions or do not tax public pensions.
In Ohio, Social Security, military, and railroad pensions are exempt from state income tax, while federal, police, fire, school and municipal retirees and all other public pension recipients must pay state income tax on their pension or annuity. This is on top of the loss of earned Social Security benefits, simply because we earn a public pension. Private pensioners are not penalized in this way.
For several years the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association has had legislation introduced in the Ohio legislature asking for fair, equitable treatment of public pensions. It has gone nowhere. Ohio is seeing public pensioners leave for friendlier states.
Many who are being penalized are widows, widowers, and survivors; 77 percent of them are women, and many are forced into poverty. There is more to this issue than meets the eye.
David Forgatsch
OPERS backs pension changes
Retirement security should be the goal for everyone. This means being able to plan for retirement and not outlive one's savings. The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System's pension plan is sustainable, is less costly than the 401(k) model, and provides retirement security to our members. We support this for all Ohioans.
OPERS' long-standing commitment of accountability is reflected in the fact that OPERS operates within the statutorily required 30-year time frame for meeting our future financial obligations.
The OPERS board has sent recommendations to the General Assembly to change the pension benefit plan in a way that will continue to ensure the strength of our system and to stay within the statutorily required time frame, without increasing employer contribution.
In addition, health care is a vital part of a meaningful retirement and our board is committed to providing quality health-care coverage for as long as possible.
Chris DeRose
Chief Executive Officer
Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Monday, January 18, 2010

Message to CORE members from Dave Parshall

From Dave Parshall, January 18, 2010
To CORE members
Dear CORE members,
Please find below a letter for you to use to send to the media or any interested group you wish. This letter was board approved and is the product of the CORE Media Committee. You can use it as whole or any part you wish. It is time to start to get our side of the pension issues to the public. Also, we need to be politically smart. There are groups out there that wish to do us harm for a host of reasons. While the legislature is deciding what to do with Ohio Public pensions, we need to stop the public attacks on STRS. CORE will still bring up some of the STRS issues we have with Mr. Nehf in February. All educators need to stand together during these difficult times. We can’t afford to hurt our own cause.
Yours truly,
Dave Parshall, President of CORE
You Asked the Wrong Question!
Recent attacks by the media on public employees and their pensions were asking the wrong question. The real question the private sector should demand an answer for is, “What has happened to my pension?” Retirement was meant to be a three-legged stool: Social Security, an employer provided pension, and personal savings. 401k plans were never intended to be the foundation of anyone’s retirement, yet they have become so today. Corporations have been allowed to undermine pensions and depress salaries to increase their bottom lines, enrich investors, and inflate CEO’s golden parachutes at the expense of workers. It is simply the product of corporate and Wall Street greed that has taken pensions and helped drive this country into the ditch.
Recent research published by the National Institute on Retirement Security, entitled “More Bang for the Buck,” points out that a defined benefit pension is the best retirement plan for all Americans. U.S. News and World Report, August 2008, states “401k plans save employers money because workers fund a portion of the plan. But a new analysis says 401ks are an inefficient way to finance a secure retirement.” The Financial News, August 2009, points out that “defined contribution schemes such as 401k plans are more expensive for employers to implement even as companies shift toward them and away from defined benefit schemes.” Time Magazine, Oct 2009, tells us, “Why it is Time to Retire the 401k...the ugly truth is that the 401k is a lousy idea, a financial flop, and a rotten repository for our retirement reserves.” And that is the real problem.
Public employees have a “defined benefit pension”--more accurately a deferred contribution pension--and so should you. However, there are some truths about public pensions and State Teacher’s Retirement System (STRS) in particular that the corporate-dominated press will never tell you.
In the first place, by state law teachers fund their own pensions. Their pensions are deferred compensation acquired through negotiations. The moment teachers sign a contract to teach, their contributions to STRS become part of their salary. The school board’s contribution to STRS is part of that contract. The school board’s 14% contribution to STRS has not changed since 1984. Over the same time period, an individual teachers’ contribution rate has increased 42.9 % to the current 10% of salary. The truth is teachers fund their own retirements. Switching public pensions to defined contribution plans is just a bad idea and will cost the state more.
Ohio teachers’ pension system was designed to replace Social Security and provide a decent retirement. To this day, teachers don’t pay into or receive Social Security. (Those teachers who worked enough quarters in the private sector get a greatly reduced payment. Social Security has a true compounded COLA, cost of living adjustment, based on the Consumer Price Index.) The STRS COLA is not compounded and is based on final salary average and never increases during a retiree’s life time. Teachers’ salaries are still low compared to similar degreed professionals. The media loves to quote the salaries of large urban school districts like many in Franklin County. What they don’t tell you is that about half of the teaching force works in rural districts and are paid far less. In many districts in southern Ohio, after a 35 year career a teacher is lucky to earn $40,000. Currently, 37,000 30-year retirees have pensions of $30,000 or less, and 62,000 retirees receive a pension less than $39,000. With Social Security, a company pension, and a 401 K or IRA plan, professionals in the private sector still fare much better during their career and into their retirement.
Until recently active teachers did not have the option of paying into Medicare. Consequently, about 10,000 retired teachers do not get Medicare Part A. STRS retirees have no spousal subsidy for health care. A retiree couple pays well over $1000 a month for health care. This is a big hit to a small monthly pension. STRS retirees fund 95 % of their health care and yet the fund is running dry. It will be the crisis for Ohio’s taxpayers if nearly 170,000 older retirees are added to the state’s Medicaid and Welfare roles.
Teachers and their leaders continue to work to find ways to solve the shortfall generated by the current market drop. Some changes have already been made. It is understandable that the public is upset with their own lot, and the feeling that they have lost control of their own retirement, but public pensions are not the problem.
The question needs to be redirected. The real revolt will come when those 30 or 40 year old workers finally realize that with a 401k foundation they will never be able to retire. Perhaps the media attack on public pensions was an attempt to redirect attention away from what has happened to private pensions and the unconstitutional funding of Ohio schools. It is time to finally ask the right questions so we all will be on the same side. Corporations and Wall Street will be on the other side where they have always been.
A proud member of CORE: Concerned Ohio Retired Educators.

RH Jones: Retired teacher spending needed to keep Ohio's economy afloat

From RH Jones, January 18, 2010
Subject: Retired STRS OH educators'pension + HC/Rx cushions OH recession
To all:
Now, as in the past, our retired teacher spending in Ohio (OH) has helped cushion downturns in the states’ economy. However, during upturns in the economy, it is retired educators who fail to keep up. The reason is the rise in HC/Rx costs and the lack of a compounding COLA that keeps us up with inflation; therefore, in the next economic downturn retired teachers will have even less to spend in cushioning the Ohio economy – a smoothing of the economy, if you will.
Retired teacher spending is vital to keep Ohio’s economy from bottoming out. Can a sensible person think of what OH would be like without this infusion of money? The damage would be catastrophic – ruination, if you will.
Considering as a secondary solution to both the state economy and retired educators could be a temporary or permanent income tax break for retired educators and perhaps active educators as well. Retired educators would have a greater initiative to live in Ohio and it would help the actives to pay a new employee increase. The STRS OH does need help to attain the goal of a 30-year funding consideration. Interest investments are now doing better but nevertheless, growing seed money through investments cannot sustain growth without increased contributions. Therefore, this income tax break should only be for retiree and possibly active educators due to the fact that an income tax break for all OH taxpayers, as proposed by GOP Governor Candidates John Kasich and Mary Taylor, would be too drastic of an upset the operation of the state government, therefore, to be a serious consideration for a thoughtful stimulation for the OH economy. (Please see Joan Platz’s email Education Report for today.)
This is my opinion,
RHJones, retired teacher STRS OH member

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Article worth reading re: Retiree health benefits

'Employee Tenure, 2008,' and 'Retiree Health Benefit Trends Among the Medicare-Eligible Population'

Dispatch editor responds to reader re: pension stories

From: Ben Marrison, January 15, 2010
Subject: RE: idea for story
Mr. Hyatt, We explained on the day the pension stories were published that it was a joint reporting project by the papers to examine how much the state and the communities across Ohio were paying for government pensions and retiree health insurance (even though the latter is voluntary by the state). The newsrooms of the newspapers are not partisan. We don't influence editorial endorsements. We write stories. Thanks for your interest. As an aside, insults are wholly counterproductive.
Benjamin J. Marrison
The Columbus Dispatch
From: Donald Hyatt, January 15, 2010
Subject: idea for story
How many times have all the major newspapers in Ohio ran a similar story? Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and how STRS, PERS, and other state controlled our getting grate retirement benefits. It is interesting that both liberal? and conservative? newspapers run the same story. It would be great to have the Dispatch could find out how this could occur.
I could buy Pearl Harbor and 9/11, but retirement payments, I just don't see it. All those firemen, police, teachers, and public employees. I don't understand how all the major newspapers in Ohio decide to come down on their benefits. Wall Street, Banks, Politicians, and who does the newspapers come down on? Teachers, Cops, and Firemen.
Let the public know why you chose to bring this to front.
If you are a newsman.
Donald Hyatt

Tom Curtis: A question for Kevin Boyce

From Tom Curtis, January 15, 2010
Subject: 011510 Appointment Of STRS Board Member
State Treasurer Boyce,
Congratulations on finally appointing the 11th board member to the STRS board, Dr. Daniel J. Martin.
I have read Dr. Martin's vitae and found absolutely no reference to his being an investment specialist. Was that not to be the major criteria for the person you appointed?
In your response to my letter to your office many months ago, requesting that you appoint Dr. Dennis Leone to the board, your comments clearly indicated that you were unable to appoint Dr. Leone because he was not an investment specialist and that was the criteria you were following.
Please sir, would you kindly validate your reasoning for your appointment of someone that is not an investment specialist.
I look forward to your response,
Thomas Curtis
STRS Stakeholder
North Canton, OH

Nancy Boomhower: Letter to Representative Lynn Wachtmann

From Nancy Boomhower, January 16, 2010
Subject: STRS Retirements
Dear Representative Wachtman,
My name is Nancy Boomhower and I am a retiree from Medina County.
What you said about people living longer and drawing a pension longer is exactly true. Another take on that is that a majority of educators are females. Females used to start teaching, quit, raise a family and go back so they were much older than 52 when they retired and often did not work for 30 years.
There has been a change and most new teachers are working straight through to the age of 52, when they have 30 years of service in. Most teachers today have 6 to 7 years of higher education. I do not think there are many other people in professional positions that have that much or more, yet teachers are not paid on the same scale as others with the same education.
The saving factor in that was since they could not save big bucks for retirement, they would be ok as they had a decent retirement, which they paid 10% of their earnings into every year. I do not think most other professions pay that amount into their pension funds.
Now you want to take away that retirement. There are at least 1 in 20 of those retirees struggling. If you do what you plan those numbers will go way up. The lucky ones will be those who have a husband with a better paying job so he could save for retirement.
Things need to change as circumstances have changed but start with the present. We have people who retired with free health care. Now, if they have to cover their spouse, they are paying upwards to $800 a month. This is out of the same pension.
They keep going backwards in keeping up with the cost of living. Asking school boards to pay 2.5 % more into the retirement system is not logical.Pay the teachers and let them pay more into the retirement system. Perhaps the amount that a teacher pays could be increased gradually, as his years of service increase because his pay would have increased by that time also.
When I first started teaching, I had four children and could have qualified for food stamps. That is not big pay!!! You are going to end up with a shortage of teachers as people with go into private industry with bigger salaries.
Thank you.
Nancy Boomhower

Tom Curtis: Response to Representative Lynn Wachtmann

From Tom Curtis, January 15, 2010
Subject: 011510 Curtis, Re: 011310 Rep Lynn Wachtmann, Re State Pension Issues
Rep. Wachtmann,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my email of 1.6.2010.
After reading your response, it would seem that we share many of the same concerns. However, we obviously disagree on the process of solving the many issues surrounding the STRS's huge unfunded liability. That is why I disagree with many of your comments in the newspapers. In my opinion, you are pointing the finger at the wrong people. Few of the stakeholders hold any liability for the unresolved financial situation at the STRS. To the contrary, many of us have been yelling day and night about the situation for nearly a decade.
Please be assured that STRS retirees are highly concerned about the viability of the pension system for those following behind us. Actives constitute members of our families, friends' families and former students. The viability of the STRS has greatly concerned me since early 2003. I have tried to do something about it, by trying to educate people of the impending situation that has now become a reality, but my calls for reform have fallen on deaf ears.
I and many others (ex. CORE) have attempted to raise the awareness of the funding issues at the STRS, actually since as early as 2001. We have contacted anybody in government and law enforcement that would listen to our concerns about the huge misspending and mismanagement at the STRS. Hundreds of newspaper articles have addressed this problem since then. This has not been a secret.
Beyond forcing Herb Dyer to retire, the ORSC has not prudently addressed stakeholders' concerns for nearly 10 years. Now that those concerns have become a reality, and our system is in dire need for a cash infusion, you are one to point the finger at the educators and make it appear that we are simply greedy and undeserving people. In my opinion, that is being very irresponsible, but probably makes good press for your re-election with your constituents.
Rep. Wachtmann, if your concerns are as sincere as mine, then let us start taking responsibility for holding those in charge accountable for their many irresponsible actions and loss of our funds. That is the real problem in this entire country! When is that going to happen? Making statements that cause the working class people to have pension envy and fight amongst themselves is totally irresponsible on your part. Many of your statements in the papers do just that! Here is a bigger concern of mine. How are you going to deal with the anarchy that will soon consume this country? I find your statements fuel that kind of anger. Please think about what you are saying? You are pointing your finger at the wrong people and you know it.
Where were the ORSC and the legislature when the State Inspector General, Thomas Charles was set to complete a forensic audit at the STRS in July 2003? I will tell you, because I was there. All of you failed us and watched Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro lobby Gov. Taft to line item veto the funds for Thomas Charles to perform his audit. Gov. Taft claimed that because the ORSC was the oversight of the 5 pension systems, there was no need for duplication of oversight. Why did all of you continue to allow business as usual to continue at the STRS? I have never received any good reason for this lack of support by the ORSC and our legislature. All of you could have over-ridden the Governors veto, but did not. Three years later, the ORSC finally offered a very expensive and grossly out of date audit by a firm made up of past pension fund directors. It was worthless and very old news when the ORSC released it. It contained no forensic audit issues, as was promised by the ORSC. That sir, was the beginning of the end for the STRS misspending and mismanagement to continue unabated. Why have none of you acted on our cries for help?
I personally have written you and every member of the ORSC many times over the past 7 years, with few responses and absolutely no results. Now, you choose to point your finger at the educators of this state and accuse us of calling for a bailout? As I indicated in my prior email to you, the vast majority of the stakeholders of the STRS are not the ones that have caused this financial crisis, yet your statements in many newspapers would most definitely lead the taxpayer to believe that we are asking for an unjustified bailout.
The STRS and the OEA leadership are responsible for this mess, along with the ORSC's failure to address it adequately. The very people that supposedly were there to represent us, all having been paid handsomely, are the ones that need to be held accountable. The OEA buys the majority of the seats on the board and always has. We managed to get John Lazares and Dennis Leone elected, mainly because the OEA underestimated the resolve we had in bringing about change. They have not permitted any other non-union backed person to be elected since 2005. The OEA/OFT spend $50-100 thousand dollars every year to get their people elected, if another candidate runs against them.
Has the ORSC or the legislature supported the stakeholders and our calls for reform, absolutely not, or we would not be discussing these issues today. Both the STRS and the OEA/OFT leadership have grossly failed their stakeholders! It is always about money and power. Educators are busy teaching over-crowded classrooms and are worn-out at the end of the day. They place their faith and trust in the leadership of these organizations and they have failed us. Together, they have promoted benefits that were not justifiable, but the legislature allowed such. (Ex. the 35-year rule in SB190) The 35-year rule has cost the STRS system one billion to date, according to CFO, Bob Slater. The OEA wants the 35-year rule continued for 5 more years. That is ludicrous! End it at the end of this school year! Every year it continues in force, it will cost the system to go further in debt.
As you might realize, I am very angry about the failure of the system to recognize and deal with the issues concerning the STRS's inability to preserve our pension funds. Having a legislator point the finger at us and make it appear we are just greedy people is uncalled for and you know better then that. The real issue at hand is that our government allowed the oversight of the banking and investment industry to ruin our economy. Please put your efforts in the right place and call for the very people that have created this situation to be held accountable for their actions, and please stop making comments and blaming the hard-working people of this state for a situation that we had nothing to do with.
Thomas Curtis

Two letters from RH Jones

January 16, 2010
Subject: Leone is more qualified but we should give Martin a chance & a brilliant exp [the rest of subject line was cut off in the copy that reached me. KBB]
To all:
Dr. Leone was better qualified but we must now live with Dr. Martin as a OH STRS board member. With his strong religious background, one would be correct to think that he will do what is best for us current retirees.
Also, I would like to praise the STRS employee, whoever he or she is, that the Defined Benefit explanation below is the BEST that I have ever read. Please read it. Personally, I think it is BRILLIANT! It gives all of us the ammunition that we need in fighting this war to keep and improve our STRS pension. To this unknown individual, I give you my thanks, congratulations and admiration for such a professional and researched response to the ignorant critics of public pension's Defined Benefit plan.
This is my personal opinion,
Robert Hudson Jones, retired teacher STRS member
January 17, 2010
Subject: Compliments and concerns for our OH STRS
Dear Laura Eklar and you staff:
In reference to the OH STRS email January Board News section of: “OTHER STRS OHIO News” I would like to congratulate you, and your staff for your defense of Defined Benefit Plans.
After the worse multiple coordinated Ohio newspaper attack, against all the Ohio’s public pension plans in all history (that included our OH STRS), I would like to, in addition to congratulations, also give my thanks and praise for a good job, done well. Better yet, it was a magnificent job! That section was well thought out and thoroughly researched.
As a retired professional teacher, I cannot help but to mention that in the “2009 MEMBER SURVEY RESULTS PRESENTED” the results of that same email showed “ -About one out of 20 retirees is struggling to make ends meet.” The words ‘make ends meet’ means to cope, manage, pay bills, break even, get by, and eke out a living. Personally I think there is a lot more than just one out of 20 retired educators that cannot make ends meet. My guess is a least five out of 20, if not more.
In all due respect to the Saferstein firm which our STRS hired to do the research by telephone, I have never been a believer in the accuracy of telephone surveys; because, most retirees that I know hang up the phone immediately when they hear the word survey. Another reason is that you never know if the call is legitimate or not. Anyone can say they are a survey company and ask personal questions. If fact, nowadays, we were told by various law enforcement authorities never to give out information over the phone; therefore, a sensible retired person would not take part.
Also, doubts are raised as to whether, or not, only those called are certain retired educators who have been predetermined to say the answer that is favorable to desired goal of the contractor of the survey – that could be either positive or negative for the retired teacher needs. One could then conclude for the above reasons telephone research is simply not reliable or accurate.
These are my personal individual thoughts.
RHJones, retired teacher OH STRS stakeholder

RH Jones re: New board member

From RH Jones, January 15, 2010
Subject: Finally, treasurer appoints new STRS board member
To all:
Down below, please notice John Curry's forward statement. It seems, finally, the State Treasurer has filled the long overdue vacancy on the OH STRS board. Hopefully, since he is President of the Mount Vernon- Nazarene College, he will be sympathetic to we who are retired educators. And, also, hopefully he will not be a "Lone Ranger" as others on the board realize retired STRS members must be safeguarded from those who would in any way try to grab our pension, or to diminish it in any way, shape, or form. If anything, the pension should be enhanced for those who are already retired.
A pension that does not keep up HC/Rx, nor a COLA that really is a COLA (not like the one we now have that almost everyone seems to want to cut), is not worth having. Also, "Bean counters", that do not have empathy with STRS retirees, have no business having so much power over so many lives who depend on our STRS. Hopefully, Daniel Martin's doctorate is in religion -- I suspect it is.
All retirees may get our just heavenly rewards for educating Ohio's public, but we need some "bread" in our retirement. Again, hopefully, he will "gather in some sheaves" for us. And, by maintaining a decent and proper retirement pension for educators, Ohio will continue to move forward. We will be able to stay here at home, rather than moving to more retiree friendly states, or countries, to spend our retirement checks. The resulting spin-off for Ohio business and jobs is, therefore, tremendous -- By the way, we benefit Ohio with our volunteering which is a great savings; without which, Ohio would have greater social expenses.
That is my opinion,
RHJones, retired teacher member of STRS

RH Jones comments on article re: CalPERS board members

RH Jones to John Curry, January 15, 2010
Subject: Re: Two CalPERS board members wouldn't do that, would they?
John and all:
In view of how retired educators of late have been treated, I wonder if uncouth business middle men are getting to some of our OH STRS board members before they run for office. In the back rooms of the ignorant rich and powerful, could deals be made to hurt STRS pensioners? Before the last few decades, a more responsible, and most certainly more caring, STRS board members had the necessary gumption to improve retired members' financial condition. We must remember that the Board's majority vote is responsible for hiring each STRS director, the good ones as well as the bad.
When, we were known as the "Cadillac of pensions" all of Ohio prospered; since then, just as our pension diminished so did Ohio. Improving our condition will improve Ohio's condition. It is that simple.

STRS Report on January 2010 board meeting

From STRS, January 15, 2010
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.
NEW MEMBER JOINS RETIREMENT BOARD Joining the State Teachers Retirement Board at its January meeting was Dr. Daniel J. Martin, who was recently appointed to the board by Treasurer of State Kevin L. Boyce. Martin is currently the president of Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Before assuming this position in 2007, he served as the vice president for University Advancement at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, as well as in various positions with MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan. He holds two doctorate degrees in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania and The University of Kansas, as well as a law degree and a master's in business administration from The University of Kansas. His four-year term on the board will run through Jan. 7, 2014.
BOARD CONSIDERS CHANGE TO SERVICE CREDIT RULE FOR PARTIAL YEARS OF TEACHING Currently, STRS Ohio members who are employed on a full-time contract can receive a full year of service credit by (a) working 120 full-time contract days, or (b) completing two full-time quarters (applies to higher education faculty). As a result, about 6% of retirees each year elect to retire midyear. The Retirement Board is considering the elimination of the reference to 120 days in the service credit rule, as well as the option for a full year of credit to be granted for two full-time quarters, effective July 1, 2015. This proposed change requires members to work 180 days to receive a full year of credit. Tutors or substitutes, who are not under a full-time contract on the teacher salary schedule, do not qualify for the 120-day rule. The board will be asked to take action on the proposed rule change at its March 2010 meeting.
2009 MEMBER SURVEY RESULTS PRESENTED The membership surveys conducted in late 2009 show that most STRS Ohio members - active and retired - continue to have positive overall impressions of STRS Ohio. These positive impressions extend to member services, pension benefits, the Retirement Board and communications. However, as expected, there has been some slippage since last year among very favorable impressions, especially among actives, due primarily to economic issues and the proposed pension plan changes.
These results were contained in a presentation made to the Retirement Board by Dr. Marty Saperstein of the Columbus-based research firm, Saperstein Associates, during the board's January meeting. The annual telephone surveys were conducted by Saperstein Associates in late November and December, and involved 606 randomly selected participants (304 active members and 302 benefit recipients).
The survey results also showed the following:
- The collective work of the Retirement Board and staff has resulted in the majority of STRS Ohio members being not only aware, but also knowledgeable about the proposed pension benefit changes. This was especially evident among those closest to retirement (pre and post). The survey responses also show a growing need for pension benefit information among actives.
- Health care coverage remains a source of concern among active and retired members. Members want the board to continue to consider this as a top priority, along with maintaining pension benefits and improving investment returns.
- Half of the active members still expect to teach longer than they originally planned, but this year one of the primary reasons (in addition to the down economy) is the proposed pension plan changes.
- About one out of 20 retirees is struggling to make ends meet.
Additional details about the surveys will be included in the next edition of the STRS Ohio newsletters.
RETIREMENTS APPROVED The Retirement Board approved 35 active members and 26 inactive members for service retirement benefits.
RETIREMENT SYSTEMS STRESS VALUE OF DEFINED BENEFIT PLANS In the past few weeks, Ohio's major newspapers have written about Ohio's public pension plans and their future sustainability. Adding to the discussion have been several editorials, as well as "letters to the editor" - both pro and con - regarding the value and funding of the Defined Benefit Plans available to Ohio's public employees. Before these articles ran, STRS Ohio reiterated its commitment to the Defined Benefit Plan with its members through its Web site and e-mail news service. In addition, the executive directors of the five Ohio systems shared the following message with key legislators.
DEFINED BENEFIT PLANS ARE GOOD FOR THEIR MEMBERS AND GOOD FOR OHIO For many decades, the public employees of Ohio have been provided with dependable retirement income during economic ups and downs. Public employers have had the ability to recruit and retain workers and budget for a predictable contribution rate. The vast majority of these Ohioans' retirement security has been provided through the investment returns earned by Ohio's five public pension plans. The balance is provided by contributions from the members and their employers. At the conclusion of their public service careers, members receive a pension benefit that is paid in lieu of Social Security. Going forward, the public pension plans can continue to provide this valued financial security by making reasonable, measured changes.
The Defined Benefit Plans offered by OPERS, STRS Ohio, SERS, Highway Patrol Retirement System and Ohio Police & Fire have benefited Ohio's public employees, this state and all taxpayers.
- Defined Benefit Plans provide financial protection for both plan members and taxpayers. Members are provided a lifetime benefit they won't outlive - a problem now faced by so many whose savings or 401(k) plans have been depleted in this recession and now face the possibility of slipping into poverty in their "golden years," having to turn to taxpayer-funded public assistance, Medicaid or social services. The state is already struggling to budget the higher level of resources to cover the new people seeking assistance.
- Defined Benefit Plans are both efficient and economical. A 2008 National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) report found that a defined benefit pension can deliver the same retirement income at 46% lower costs than an individual defined contribution account due to pooling of investment risk, continual diversification of assets and professional investment management.
- Defined Benefit Plans provide a stable source of revenue for Ohio's local economies. According to NIRS, in 2006 nearly 360,000 residents of Ohio received a total of $8.41 billion in pension benefits from state and local pension plans, with $8.29 billion paid from plans within the state and the remainder originating from plans in other states.
- Defined Benefit Plans support Ohio workers. NIRS has also reported that retiree expenditures stemming from the pension plan payments in 2006 supported more than 79,000 Ohio jobs that paid $4.3 billion in wages and salaries.
- Defined Benefit Plans support the services provided by local, state and federal governments through the taxes paid on these pensions. In 2006, taxes paid by retirees and beneficiaries in Ohio directly out of pension payments, as well as taxes attributable to direct, indirect and induced expenditures, accounted for $702.5 million in state of Ohio and local tax revenue, according to NIRS.
- Defined Benefit Plans play a critical role in reducing the risk of poverty and hardship among older individuals. Defined benefit pension income saved taxpayers $7.3 billion in public assistance expenditures nationally in 2006 alone because retirees had a regular monthly pension payment that helped sustain them above the poverty level.
The public pension plans in Ohio have a history of remaining sustainable with reasonable, measured changes. Each system has taken the prudent and responsible step to present proposals that recognize the need to look at options, including adjusting benefits that acknowledge the fact that people are living longer. The legislative process is important to provide plan stability for the systems' members, local economies and all Ohioans.
The starting point for discussions must be the preservation of the Defined Benefit Plan offered by each system. These plans are major economic drivers for the state; are administratively efficient and economical; and provide a stable retirement income for public workers in Ohio, thereby reducing the burden on taxpayers and Social Security.
For further information about NIRS reports, visit
BOARD RETREAT DATES ANNOUNCED The Retirement Board will hold its annual retreat at STRS Ohio from Jan. 27-29. The meeting is open to the public.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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