Friday, October 16, 2020

Bob Stein's suggestion to STRS Board: Take back that 2% COLA we gave them!

From John CurryOctober 16, 2020
At yesterday's STRS Board meeting, Bob Stein (retiree board member) suggested that there might be a third funding source in addition to the "Contribution rates and Investment returns;" that being a take-back of previously granted COLAs to our retirees
Bob Buerkle has asked Director Neville's opinion as to whether this is a legal possibility at any time in the future for any STRS Retiree.

Dan MacDonald reacts to the October 2020 STRS Board meeting: ENOUGH!

ENOUGH. ENOUGH. ENOUGH.. I attended the virtual STRS Board meeting of October 15, 2020 which lasted from a couple minutes past nine to close to four thirty. Fireworks started immediately with the move to accept the minutes of the September Board meeting. Appointed Board member Wade Steen wanted language added to memorialize statements made during the September meeting which would hold STRS staff “feet to the fire”, my interpretation, not his. Elected active Robert McFee challenged the adds on the premise he didn’t recall the information and /or he didn’t recall it the way Steen stated. Steen said he had a tape of the meeting. McFee said the meetings aren’t taped. Steen explained that we, the membership to which the Board represents, taped the meeting. The minutes had to be tabled so that Steen could send to each Board member a copy of the tape and his additions. No other Board member spoke up. Silence from the other nine members of the Board except the “Yea”s to table. ENOUGH. ENOUGH. ENOUGH. STRS Ohio should be making a tape of each of its meetings, period. The Board members should move and vote for this to happen, period. I am sure that its Webinar platform allows the taping. This, former Boards, and STRS administration do not want to be held accountable for statements shared by consultants, staff, and Board members. They desire vanilla minutes created by STRS staff that eliminate the nitty-gritty.

Another issue, the Power Point presentations and Agenda for a Board meeting are not posted to the website until well into the meeting, if at all. At this Board meeting it was after ten before the agenda was posted. Why? It is hard to believe that the Agenda was not prepared well before the Thursday meeting. As to the Power Point presentations, it is also hard to believe that these slides are being prepared the morning of the meeting. These materials should be posted to the website during business hours at least by the day before the meeting so that can be downloaded and printed.

Finally, do you know that at the public participation portion of normal Board meetings opened to the public in Columbus, STRS Ohio policy does not allow a speaker to publicly identify a person to what is said at a meeting? Although I often speak at Board meetings, occasionally I quote and or paraphrase Board members and staff and identify them. Board member Stein under New Business, brought up that there should be consequences for people who speak during public participation that do not follow the Board’s rules. He asked it be added to a future agenda. To date, this has not happened. This fury happened within the last two years.

An election for three STRS Ohio Board seats will be held in the spring. One active seat and both retiree’s seats. It is time for a change. ENOUGH. ENOUGH. ENOUGH.

Dan MacDonald, STRS Retiree

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Robin Rayfield’s Reflections on the September 2020 STRS Board Meeting

I recently listened to the STRS Board as they met in a virtual setting again in September. The news is not good. Although the stock market has rebounded from most of the COVID losses, our funding level has not improved. Remember, STRS has in place a policy that states there will be no benefit increases until the system is funded at 85%. We are currently in the mid 70%range. Some positive news, however, is one STRS Board member did ask directly, what is going on with the COLA issue. 

It seems like a very long time ago that the Board took away our guaranteed benefit increase (2017). For many STRS retirees, they have not received any increase since 2014. For all retirees, we have experienced a loss of what was promised for 5, soon to be 6 years! Wade Steen asked the “experts” offering advice to the investors at STRS several pointed questions. In one exchange Mr. Steen asked if the benchmark that the alternative investment group had established was unrealistic or is that group of investors underperforming? Although the advisor would not say that the group was underperforming, the advisor did say the benchmark was a realistic and appropriate benchmark.

Mr. Steen is currently my favorite STRS Board member. I sense that he recognizes that retirees cannot live forever without any benefit increase. At one time he pointed out that under the current projections provided by the STRS staff, the pension system does not reach the 85% level required for COLA consideration before 2037. That is right; the chart used during the discussion went out to 2037 and the funding level remained below 80%.Mr. Steen said something to the effect that “we need answers and suggestions as to how the system can reach the level to provide increases to retirees”.
ORTA remains engaged in the fight to “get more of what we were promised” after a career of serving the children of our state. We are currently investigating what more we can do to shed light on what is happening with our retirement. It seems like every time I listen to a presentation by STRS, I hear that STRS is in the top quartile of pension systems in the country. The highly paid “external advisors” also inform us that our system is very highly rated. What troubles me is that the highly paid external advisors do not really “audit” STRS. Instead, they report what STRS provides them in the way of performance and offers praise. I am all for recognition of excellence; however, if a pension system cannot provide the promised benefits to its members, how great can it be? One thing ORTA might do is seek an “outside and independent” review or audit of the STRS system. We are currently investigating what such an audit would look like, and what we might learn.
From ORTA’s September 2020 newsletter. Dr. Robin Rayfield is Executive Director of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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