Saturday, May 26, 2018

Kathie Bracy: Thank you, Robin!

Hi Robin --

I have read your remarks in the May ORTA newsletter and wanted to commend you for them, and for speaking at the STRS Board meeting last month. I was unable to attend that meeting as I needed to be in NE Ohio at that time.

I'm glad you put a different slant on the need for retirees to see increases in their pension checks and asked for a road map with indicators of how the Board will determine when we can start seeing increases. Smart thinking! I'm glad (or at least I hope) you lit a fire under Mike Nehf in this regard. Don't let him drag his feet, though. There MUST be other ways to keep retirees' pensions from further sinking into the mire other than taking it out on them, particularly those with the smallest pensions.

When Nehf was hired at in 2008, we heard he had killed the COLA for retirees in his previous job in Georgia and were afraid it would happen to us. Well -- it did. Below is an article from my blog quoting the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2007. Perhaps it's not fair to put the blame on one person for the demise of a COLA, but I can't help wishing the STRS Board had been able to find an executive director who managed to save the COLA and other benefits for another pension system. Perhaps that's wishful thinking on my part.

Perhaps we need to keep our ear to the ground in case there is someone out there with a proven record of preventing the kinds of things that have been happening at STRS and who has the ability to turn things around. Such a person would definitely be worth a nice bonus. Mike's been here ten years, and retirees have lost too much in that time. Good luck in your dealings with him.

Thanks again, Robin, for speaking before the STRS Board. That in itself speaks volumes to retirees. Good start -- keep it up! And yes, I agree with you that we do need to see more ORTA members at STRS Board meetings. If each RTA could sponsor (at least in part) one representative to attend each month, what a showing that would be!

Kathie Bracy 

MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2009
Mr. Nehf may also CRUSH STRS COLA
From Mario Iacone, June 22, 2009

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/25/07

In 2007, Mr. Nehf, Executive Director of STRS Ohio, stabilizes the Employees Retirement System of Georgia by cutting COLA benefits.

Excerpt from the article:

"State retirees are up in arms because, faced with frightening projections about future liabilities, the system's governing board broke tradition this year and approved a cost-of-living adjustment for ERS retirees of 1.5 percent, half the customary 3 percent boost. After legislators started taking heat, the board added another half percentage point to raise the COLA to 2 percent. The cost of living, as measured by the consumer price index, has risen 2.8 percent over the most recent 12 months.

"Over seven of the past 10 years, Nehf said, the rate of inflation has been less than 3 percent. Yet the retirement system has continued to pay 3 percent COLAs. Continuing that practice will lead to a $17 billion funding shortfall that another generation will have to pay. Currently, ERS expects to have 94.5 percent of the assets needed to pay promised benefits, leaving a manageable $781 million gap between assets and liabilities.

If 3 percent annual COLA increases continue into the future, however, assets will sink to 48.6 percent of the promised benefits by 2039.

"At that time, Mr. Nehf was Executive Director of Employees Retirement System of Georgia."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

ORTA Executive Director Dr. Robin Rayfield addresses the STRS Board at their April Board meeting

I was unable to attend the April Board meeting myself, but was very interested in Dr. Rayfield's timely remarks that day. Here is what he shared in the ORTA May 2018 newsletter last week: 

"I was able to speak at the April 19, 2018 STRS Board of Trustees meeting. My comments included a reminder that COLA remains the hottest topic on the minds of STRS recipients.
Rather than repeating a request for a return to COLA, my request was having STRS ‘lay out a pathway for benefit enhancement’. So many people have asked the STRS Board of Trustees to ‘give us back our COLA’ that its appears the request falls on deaf ears. What I
have requested is that the STRS folks offer a list of conditions that must take place prior to beneficiaries receiving more in their monthly checks. The STRS employees are adept at
describing our current financial conditions and they monitor our financial position carefully. What ORTA would like to know is what metrics or measurements are being used to determine when the members of STRS can expect to see an increase. I did receive a call from Executive Director Nehf the following week and a commitment from him to work on developing such a pathway or road map to benefit enhancement. I am excited about the willingness by STRS Executives to help the STRS beneficiaries with understanding the complex nature of pension systems and potential increases in our monthly checks. At the same meeting about 65 STRS beneficiaries from Northeast Ohio attended. Two of their group spoke about the need to return to COLA, especially for the most vulnerable of our group. One comment that struck a resounding chord was that it is unacceptable for STRS to consider pay increases for STRS employees if the STRS recipients are ‘frozen’ on their monthly checks. I tend to agree."

Monday, May 21, 2018

Attention STRS Ohio members! Want to join the movement to restore our COLA? 

Join Ohio STRS Member Only Forum on Facebook: 
Numbers talk - join now!

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

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

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

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