Saturday, June 01, 2019

STRS employee to Denise Brewster: 'Our raises don’t cost what your raise would cost.'

Letter to STRS Board re: COLA & Health care concerns
April 9, 2019 
To the STRS Board Members: 
My name is Denise Brewster and this is my third year as a full retiree. Upon attending a recent Geauga County Retired Teachers’ Meeting, I heard a presentation from Mr. Nick Treneff, the STRS Communications Director. The information was well organized and presented an overall view of the financial status of STRS. However, I came away with the following concerns which Nick said he would relay to you. 
1. COLA still remains a concern with the current retirees sacrificing their “raise” in light of the excessive yearly raises for staff that range from 1% to six digit increases exceeding one’s salary of six digits. In a conversation I had with an STRS employee, she stated, “Our raises don’t cost what your raise would cost.” Regardless of what raises cost, we are the members who paid into a system that is denying ANY raise for retirees. Mr. Treneff said that any action would need to include all members.” On that point, I waited over 30 years for my retirement to access my benefits, which included a guaranteed COLA, by paying into the system. Members not yet ready for retirement will have to wait for their benefit when they put their required time in to qualify. The bottom line is the ethical issue of employees receiving raises while we cannot keep up with inflation due to the loss of COLA year after year. 100% funding is a moving target and has increased from the 75% operational funding of the past. You need to rethink these points in all fairness, and act in good consciousness for these retired educators. They deserve their benefits which includes COLA. 
2. We were told that Health Care Fund is fully funded. I asked, “At what percentage is it funded?” The response from Mr. Treneff was, “170%.” I almost fell off my chair when I heard that fact. He went on to say that we did not get an increase in our health care cost as a result. REALLY?! Our membership does not know this fact. As it is transparently clear that we are well over 100% funded, which is your goal for COLA to be reinstated, why in the world did you not consider a roll back of 3% of our health care cost to offset the loss of COLA? This fact is so disturbing that it begs the question of what will really happen if and when 100% is achieved in funding to allow a COLA to return. Will the target be moved to 170%? Please RE-EVALUATE your stance on this situation and COMPROMISE with an offset to make up for our COLA loss for retirees. You have a $3.7 billion balance in this fund. 
Thank you for hearing my concerns. I would appreciate an update on your discussion of the points above and what action(s) you plan to take to remedy the situation. 
Denise Brewster
Concord, OH 
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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