Thursday, February 20, 2020

Dean Dennis and Bob Buerkle
February 20, 2020
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Robin Rayfield to STRS Board: STRS needs to seek an increase in employer contributions to add additional revenue to the pension system.

Robin Rayfield to STRS Board: STRS needs to seek an increase in employer contributions to add additional revenue to the pension system.
Robin Rayfield's speech to the STRS Board
February 20, 2020
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Bob Buerkle to STRS Board: Past STRS Member Statements, fliers, publications, Ohio Revised Code 3307.67 and retirement counselors all informed us that we would always receive a COLA. All lies.

Bob Buerkle's speech to STRS Board
February 20, 2020
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times 
STRS Pension and formula changes make this the worst retirement era for our members since the 1960’s. The famous opening words from Charles Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness” describe what has happened to STRS Members over the last 7 years.
We are currently experiencing the best of times for investments, which has created the longest BULL MARKET in history. Between March, 2009 and February, 2020 the overall market has more than quadrupled in value. Too bad we have only invested half of our pension funds in equities. By not investing 70-75% in equities, as done in the past, STRS portfolio values are about 14 Billion less than where they should be.
Consequently, STRS Retirees and Actives are experiencing the worst of times: no COLA, increased contributions and longer work requirements for smaller benefits. I have searched STRS for the age of wisdom without success, but we are all living in the STRS imposed age of foolishness. If there was STRS leadership with great wisdom, would the average retiree have already lost over $20,000 in promised pension benefits after their careers were over? Is it fair to require active teachers to increase their contributions by 40%, their career lengths by 5-9 years, their retirement age to 60, only to receive a lesser pension formula and a COLA delayed for at least five years?
The path of “Wisdom” would have been to grandfather retirees since their careers had been completed, often by two or three decades or more. The same goes for active teachers who had already completed 50 to 90% of their careers only to then have the rug pulled out from under them. We don’t care if STRS Management seeks to be 85%, 100% funded, or 200% funded, but do it on your own time and not at our expense. Make it a 100 year goal for fiscal year 2120, we don’t care. The STRS Plan has an assumed perpetual life while we retirees and active members have an expiration date!
We are all being subjected to pension rules that are worse today than they were in the 1960’s. There were no COLAs in those days, either, but at least you could retire with 35 years of service at any age and you only had to pay a 7% contribution rate.
In conclusion, STRS regularly informed members that health care was not guaranteed under our pension plan. However, excess monies could be used to fund health care and it was (over $40 billion in today’s dollars). So much funding that the actuary says the STRS health care plan has enough money right now to last for 65 years.
Conversely, STRS never told us that we were not guaranteed a simple annual COLA. Past STRS Member Statements, fliers, publications, Ohio Revised Code 3307.67 and retirement counselors all informed us that we would always receive a COLA. All lies.

Dean Dennis to STRS Board: When you do these things... an alarm sounds

Dean Dennis' speech to STRS Board
February 20, 2020
I am Dean Dennis, I retired after 35 years of service from the Cincinnati Public Schools. I currently serve as the STRS Chair for the Cincinnati Retirees Local 1520 and am also the Spokesperson for the STRS Ohio Member Only Forum on Facebook.
Additionally, I started the petition, Respect Ohio's Retired Teachers, Restore Their Promised COLA. I also started a recent petition, STRS, It's Our Money, Adopt a Reasonable Investment Return Assumption. The first petition has over 30,000 signatures, the second petition has over 5,000 signatures. You should visit these petitions. You might even consider signing them. I know that STRS spends over $25,000 for the Saperstein & Associates survey, which surveys over 300 members through carefully developed questions. STRS always reports members feel very satisfied with STRS. One would think all is well. However, Board Members should not overlook the two aforementioned surveys. These have over 35,000 signatures and contain frank, unsolicited comments from active and retired teachers. I won't summarize the comments. You owe it to yourself to read what they say. I think you also owe it to them.
Let's talk about our retired teachers. Using STRS statistics from the 2019 CAFR [Comprehensive Annual Financial Report], over 12,500 of our members have died since Board members decided to "adjust" the COLA; down to nothing. Considering we are 8 months into the 2020 fiscal year, the actual number of our deceased former colleagues is likely now over 15,000.
Over the past three fiscal years, the changes you sought have resulted in 500 more retirees who have died than have retired. Left behind are 15,000 spouses worrying if their loved ones' pensions will stand the test of time for their families.
When STRS breaks pension promises and passes measures to become financially healthier by adopting measures of addition through subtraction, when STRS rewards those who need it the least (their staff), at the expense of those who need it the most (retirees on a fixed income) an alarm sounds. When STRS sets a goal to become 85% funded, yet adopts an Investment Return Assumption more than 100 basis points below actual 30 year earnings, then uses this as a vehicle to rob retirees of their full pension and make active teachers work into their sixties, an alarm sounds. It's time for all of us to reflect because this just isn't right. I would hope we're all better than this. I dedicate this presentation to Ed Jaspers and Murray Grace, two dear friends who died in 2018; they were two gentle but strong men who worried that their pensions might not be enough to take care of their families.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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