Thursday, September 13, 2012

Retired teachers lose and so all of Ohio loses

From RH Jones, September 13, 2012
To all:
As you may already know, the STRS Ohio bill, Substitute Senate Bill 342, passed in the Ohio House yesterday. It was already passed in the Senate, and Governor Kasich says he will sign.
Webster's Dictionary defines a pensioner as being dependent. Therefore, as this becomes law, its passage means the state of Ohio has gotten away with underfunding our STRS pension; and therefore we dependent pensioners now must bear the burden of an unfair COLA cut even though we have previously, experienced deep HC/Rx severances.
Our COLA is not even being phased in. We will be hit with no COLA at all in the 2013-2014 fiscal year – we were informed by our STRS that the COLA would be nonexistent in 2014. I believe it will be, abruptly, on January 1, 2013, not the fiscal year date of July 1, 2014. Whatever happened to grandfathering?
Because the few of us protesting were ignored, the unions and our STRS, with the exception of Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE), are claiming a consensus in their memberships to the COLA cut. The OEA, in particular, believes that: “ … there was stakeholder support for each plan”. And one of the retired teacher STRS Board representatives, Jim McGreevy, said that STRS had taken a poll of retired teachers, and those polled supported the take-away. No person in our CORE that I know of has ever been polled by our STRS. Could it be that the STRS knows which stakeholders to call on when they want a take-away poll done? Those of us monitoring our STRS know that this has been the case over the last 25 years.
The losers are those of us who are older retired teachers; however, it will also be the children and Ohio’s future economic growth that will be hurt the most. Quality teachers, seeing that it is so easy to sever their retirement “benefits” (better known as delayed compensation), even after paying 14% of their modest salaries into the system, will seek employment elsewhere; as a result, without properly trained public school graduates, businesses will move elsewhere, as well.
It is my thinking that Ohio needs to admit its mistake and to move quickly forward to restore a proper state contribution not only to the STRS but, also, to all Ohio traditional public school districts. In all certainty, this will move Ohio forward economically.
R.H. Jones, an Ohio retired teacher

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ohio House and Senate Pass Pension Reform Bills; now Awaiting Governor's Signature

From STRS, Sept. 12, 2012
On Sept. 12, the Ohio Legislature passed pension reform bills to improve the financial condition of all five Ohio pension systems, including the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS Ohio). The STRS Ohio bill, Substitute Senate Bill 342, was based on the reform plan approved unanimously by the State Teachers Retirement Board on April 19, 2012. The bill now goes to Governor Kasich for his signature. Once signed, the bill will go into effect Jan. 7, 2013, but most of STRS Ohio's plan changes will take effect July 1, 2013, or later.
STRS Ohio executive director Michael Nehf expressed his appreciation to the key legislative leaders who helped bring the board-approved plan to fruition. "I want to thank Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) and Minority Leader Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati) for co-sponsoring the pension reform bills," said Nehf. "I am also grateful for the leadership that Representatives Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) showed in shepherding these much needed bills through the House."
Provisions in Sub. Senate Bill 342 are projected to save $11.6 billion in accrued liabilities and will allow STRS Ohio to maintain a 1% employer contribution to its health care fund. The bill increases age and service requirements for retirement; calculates pensions on a lower, fixed formula; increases the period for determining final average salary; increases member contributions to the system; reduces the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA); defers the COLA for future retirees; and calls for no COLA to be added in fiscal year 2014. Under these provisions, STRS Ohio is projected to meet the 30-year funding requirement by 2016, if all actuarial assumptions are met.
The bill also provides the Retirement Board the authority to make future adjustments to the member contribution rate, retirement age and service requirements, and the COLA as the need or opportunity arises, and depending on the funding progress. In addition, eligibility for survivor and disability benefits increased to five and 10 years, respectively, for all new hires.
The bill's passage is the culmination of three years of efforts by STRS Ohio and its stakeholders to address the system's funding challenges. Various plans were reviewed with legislators and stakeholders before agreement was reached earlier this year. The bill was supported by Healthcare and Pension Advocates for STRS (HPA) — a coalition that is comprised of groups representing more than 470,000 members and retirees, as well as employers.
Executive director Nehf recognized the significant role that HPA played throughout the development and legislative process. "Legislative leaders expressed early on that they were looking for broad constituent support for any benefit changes," said Nehf. "We knew the needed changes would be difficult, but the Healthcare and Pension Advocates understood the changes were necessary to preserve the pension fund. HPA's support was key in getting this bill passed."
STRS Ohio has outlined the key components of the bill on our website including some background on the need for these changes and the effective dates of various provisions of the bill. Information will also be shared with both active and retired members in STRS Ohio's October newsletters.

STRS board to meet September 19-20, 2012

From STRS, September 12, 2012
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, September 19, 2012
Noon - Disability Review Panel and Final Average Salary Committee (Disability Reviews and Final Average Salary Committee will be conducted in Executive Session)
Thursday, September 20, 2012
9 a.m. Retirement Board Meeting
The Retirement Board meeting will come to order on Thursday, September 20, 2012, and begin with a Report From the Investment Department followed by Enterprise Risk Management - Executive Department, the Executive Director's Report, public participation, Concerned Ohio Retired Educators, Inc. (CORE), routine matters, old business, new business and any other matters requiring attention.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A note of thanks to CORE leaders and members from Nancy Hamant

From Nancy Hamant, September 9, 2012
My heartfelt thanks goes to each one of you for over 10 years of service on behalf of STRS members. Without all of you monitoring STRS monthly for Ohio's educators, both active and retired, many of us would not have had availability to STRS's actions. Actions which affect all Ohio educators.
CORE's constant monitoring and advocacy on behalf of Ohio educators has resulted in the following:
* Legislative action which resulted in Herb Dyer's resignation;
* Ethics charges against STRS Board members;
* Elimination of bonuses (PBI) for the total number of STRS workers;
* Temporary halting of STRS investment staff bonuses (PBI);
* Public information requests of STRS actions of critical interest to Ohio educators;
* Testimony to STRS Board Members made on behalf of Ohio educators;
* Dissemination of STRS information statewide via an Internet network;
* Legislative contacts;
And, most importantly;
* The addition of a second member on the STRS Board, who is elected by retirees to represent retirees!
CORE Leaders and members, there are many more accomplishments that have resulted from your efforts, more than I have listed above. I am totally humbled and thankful that all of you have dedicated a major portion of your life, to protect all of Ohio's educators.
I am also greatly saddened that the most recent Ohio retirees have not yet stepped forward to continue monitoring STRS on behalf of all Ohio educators. Hopefully, in the future, others will step forward and continue the job!
Best wishes for your last meeting this month in Columbus and know that my thoughts and thanks will be with all of you.
Nancy B. Hamant

Kathie Bracy to Nancy Hamant, September 9, 2012
Nancy --
I don't know how to thank YOU for your very major contributions to CORE's efforts. I couldn't begin to name them all. I've been very impressed with the way so many people have pulled together in this effort; each one seemed to fill a unique niche, which no doubt has kept STRS on its toes. They know they are being watched closely, and many of us will continue to watch closely, CORE or no CORE. John Curry plans to keep up his vigilance and his research, and I plan to keep my blog going. I'm guessing others are not going to walk away, either. The STRS board will still see some of us sitting out there during their meetings.
I agree; it is disappointing that younger retirees have not stepped forward to keep the momentum going to watchdog our pension system. Maybe it will take another near-catastrophe to wake them up as it took to wake us up. I hope not. We did our best; that's all anyone can do.
Kathie Bracy
CORE to hold final meeting September 20, 2012

STRS board to meet September 19-20, 2012

CORE to hold final meeting September 20, 2012

From CORE, September 6, 2012
Sent by Mary Ellen Angeletti
CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators) will hold its LAST meeting on Thursday, September 20th at the STRS building at 275 East Broad Street in Columbus. Parking is free in the STRS parking garage located behind the building. We encourage you to also attend the STRS Retirement Board meeting on the same day which usually begins around 9:00 in the meeting room on the 6th floor but this time varies from month to month. Lately the STRS meetings have been held most of the day on the following Friday as well as Thursday. For this reason, we suggest you check the STRS website ( to confirm the time.
Please remember that CORE meeting attendees usually leave the STRS meeting around 11:30 in order to go to the cafeteria on the 2nd floor to get our lunches. We then take our lunches to the small cafeteria room behind the Sublett Room on the 2nd floor where the CORE meeting begins promptly at 11:45.
At this meeting, we will be holding the final vote to end the CORE organization. We will also enjoy each others' company as we reminisce about our ten years as a group which has offered retired teachers another resource for their concerns. We will also discuss the plans for the upcoming afternoon session of the STRS Board as we make our formal presentation to them. We will be presenting a check which represents the sum of CORE's remaining treasury which will be donated to the STRS health care fund. We hope you will join us for this fond farewell.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Nancy Hamant to legislators re: State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio

From Nancy Hamant, September 08, 2012
Senators Faber, Oelslager, and Tavares; House Members Ramos, Wachtmann and Schuring; Governor's Appointees Miller and Morgan:
My name is Nancy B. Hamant. I am a State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) member and current retiree. For the past ten years, I have actively followed STRS actions regarding pensions and health care.
As you continue your thoughtful review of all five public pension funds recommendations for needed changes, I feel it is important to forward my concerns, especially for the STRS proposed changes.
1. Of deep concern is the reduction of Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) which is proposed to start with a one year halt and immediately thereafter with lower annual calculation of COLA. This will be an extreme financial blow to the over 30,000 STRS retirees who retired with a Final Average Salary of less than $30,000 annually. Please consider the impact of the proposed changes on these retirees in STRS, as well as, retirees in the other four public pension plans in similar fiscal circumstances. Your fairness and equity are greatly needed.
2. The proposed 14 year phase-out of the current 88% calculation of benefits for 35 year retirees, which was implemented in FY1999, is not understandable and certainly is not equitable. Phasing out of the 88% calculation should not exceed 7 years (one fifth of a 35-year career). Again, your fairness and equity are greatly needed.
3. The proposal to give STRS, or for that matter also the other four public pension plans, "carte blanche" to change the pensions funds without Legislative oversight should not even be considered at is bad legislation.
I appreciate your time, careful review of all of the facts, and equitable recommendations to the STRS system.
Nancy B. Hamant
Maineville, OH

From RH Jones, September 8, 2012
Nancy B. Hamant,
Please forward my response to your message to the legislators. The 'carte blanche' is bad legislation. However, at today's cost of living a $30,000 pension adjusted for inflation just is not enough due to HC/Rx costs. $40,000 would be a more reasonable figure. The elderly spend most of their income on medications and doctors visits.

RH Jones: A brief report on the SummitCRTA meeting of 09/04/2012

From RH Jones, September 8, 2012
To all retired teachers:
As you may know, Jim McGreevy, one of the 2 retired teacher representatives on the STRS board, was the guest speaker at the SummitCRTA/ORTA 09/04/2012 General Meeting. Due to the length of his speech and the tardiness of the restaurant staff in delivering the $12 usual Swiss steak, green beans, bread, and mashed potatoes (we did have ice cream for desert) the Association President, Mary Lou Swartz, was only able to allow the membership a brief time to ask questions of Jim at the end of his speech.
Unfortunately, I was the only one attending that asked a question. My question to Jim was this: Since actives were smoothed in their STRS contribution to the health of the STRS, why were not retired teachers smoothed in our COLA cut? His answer was too long for me to reiterate here but I think his answer was in a “company man” mode, which seemed to me to be in total harmony with our STRS management position. He stated, in my simplified terms, that they negotiated as best they could against overwhelming odds.
I have no idea of how many current retired teachers, and no way to find out how many of our fellow ORTA members, lobbied the ORTA officials or the STRS management asking for the protection of our 3% simple COLA, and the reinstatement of our HC/Rx which was promised to us and our spouses. If only a few of us offered any opposition to the hurtful reduction of our benefits, is it no wonder that we lost this battle and perhaps the war? And, now, without the CORE, our retired teacher lobby is diminished even further.
The SummitCRTA Legislative Chair, Kay Fluke, was able to remind everyone that the CORE is having its last meeting at the STRS building September 20th. Hopefully, all CORE members will come to see the transfer of the CORE treasury to help the STRS HC/Rx funding.
By the way, the Akron City Public School System hired only sixteen new teachers for this new school year. Among the sixteen, only one was a male teacher. Unless our citizens wake up to the value of traditional public education, our civilization, as we have know it will be diminished.
Respectfully submitted,

Updated Hearing Schedule for House Subcommittee on Pension Reform

Weds., July 25, 2012, 1:00 pm…PERS and SERS
Weds., Aug. 1, 1:00 pm…HPRS and OP&F
Weds., Aug. 8, 10:00 am…STRS, Senate Sponsor Testimony
Tues., Aug. 14, 6:00 pm…Proponent, Opponent, Interested Party
Weds., Aug. 15, 1:00 pm…Proponent, Opponent, Interested Party
Tues., Aug. 21, 6:00 pm…Proponent, Opponent, Interested Party
Weds., Aug. 22, 1:00 pm…Proponent, Opponent, Interested Party
Tues., Aug. 28, 6:00 pm …Proponent, Opponent, Interested Party
Weds., Aug. 29, 1:00 pm…Proponent, Opponent, Interested Party
Tues., Sept. 4, 6:00 pm…Proponent, Opponent, Interested Party
Weds., Sept. 5, 1:00 pm…Proponent, Opponent, Interested Party
Mon., Sept. 10, 10:00 am…Possible Vote
Weds., Sept. 12, 1:00 pm…Possible Floor Vote
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