Friday, February 04, 2022

Dan MacDonald's report on the January 27, 2022 special STRS Board meeting

From Dan MacDonald

February 4, 2022

I did not attend the January 27th STRS Board meeting, but I did listen to it through the STRS website. I think all of you in STRS should listen to 11 minutes of the meeting. It concerns actives and you. If you go to In the banner go to “About Us.” Under About Us go to the 2nd column and click on Most Recent Board Meeting Materials and that will lead you to the January 2022 Board slides and the presentation. Click on the triangle for the presentations and you will have the Report from the Investment Department and the Report from the Finance Department. Click on the Finance Department. Start the presentation and toggle to 1 hour 8 minutes and listen to the last eleven minutes which features STRS’s chief actuary Brian Grinnell. This is the heart of the presentation. It lasts about 11 minutes and you’ll see a couple of slides. The Board ends up focused on Option 2 only, plus Dale Price’s hybrid request. The whole Finance Department report would be good to listen if you have 80 minutes of your time available.  

As to the overall meeting, new Board member Scott Roulston was introduced. He is the state treasurer’s appointee and replaced Yoel Mayerfeld, who often sided with Rudy Fichtenbaum and Wade Steen. The Investment Department had outside investment consultant Callan present on the preliminary asset-allocation results. Basically, it would appear there needs to be some tweaking from Mix 1, which is the current mix. Four additionally mixes were presented from most conservative, Mix 2, to most aggressive, Mix 5. The Board has requested a new mix between Mix 3 and Mix 4. Callan will present again in February and the Board is to set to finalize their asset allocation strategy in March.

The Finance Department had Cheiron, an outside actuarial consultant, on Lever Analysis.  Four lever options were presented and analyzed by both Cheiron and STRS’s own actuary, Brian Grinnell.  After the presentation and discussion, the Board focused on Option 2 – 2% one-time COLA for those eligible and change eligibility for an unreduced benefit to 35 years and eliminated the age 60 requirement in 2026. Board member Dale Price did ask for a new option that would somehow combine years of service and age. Mr. Price also asked, in regards to a COLA, what determines when something is stated to be one-time, intermittent, or permanent and the liability impact. The answer was tossed to STRS’s legal who brought up member expectation, and back to the actuary. 

The next Board meeting is February 17 and then March 17.  Although all meetings are important to actives and retirees, these two in particular WILL HAVE IMPACT. You should try to attend.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

A sobering commentary for all of us from Joe Lupo, founder of Facebook group Ohio STRS Member Only Forum

We all know now, if the past and current culture at STRS is going to ever change, it must be done by ALL of us as members and NOW! The culture I am referring to, has been nurtured by the OEA/STRS Board over the last two plus decades. Yes, there have been attempts by individuals and even some small groups to make changes, but never on the same scale and magnitude that we now find ourselves at. For the first time in a long time, we are in a position to make meaningful change now and for the future. That change can only occur by changing the current membership on the Board by electing individuals who will truly have the best interests of ALL STRS members at heart and will be open and transparent.

Tom Curtis, MOF member and contributor in some of his recent postings has highlighted several key factors regarding the purported insolvency of STRS as noted by the OEA and STRS, which at times, seem to be one in the same. He also correctly points out that the STRS Board has been controlled by OEA for 30 plus years and thus, has been in collusion with STRS. While the OEA would like us to believe otherwise, the ongoing discussions between OEA with high level STRS staff is ongoing.

The OEA is currently propagating with their active membership in their "Legislative Watch" dated January 14, 2022, that although retired teachers need and deserve a cost-of-living adjustment, the long term ability of STRS to pay pensions to all members is critical. Of course they are addressing their concerns with Senate Bill 280 and are clearly attempting to drive a wedge between active and retired members. Further, the shoring up the funding of STRS has taken a shared sacrifice and the improved funding should benefit active and retired teachers alike. Yes there has definitely been a sacrifice, but not by OEA or the STRS staff.
We agree that the improved funding of STRS should benefit active and retired teachers. The question that begs an answer from OEA is, why haven't they been working on behalf of their active members since it was their OEA-endorsed STRS Board members that voted for the changes in active teachers' STRS contribution rates, the increased years for retirement and the watering down of their final average retirement benefits? We as retirees support change for all active STRS members retirement as it now stands, and you can believe that this issue has not been lost with us during our efforts to restore COLA. Their issues remain on our list of priorities.
The OEA in an article "Working Together to Ensure a Secure Retirement for OHIO Teachers" in the Ohio Schools October/November 2021 issue, again attempts to divide the active and retired members of STRS for their own gain and political cover. They attempt to make an issue of retirement security while at the same time ignoring the fact that the management or as some call it mismanagement, has been the single largest factor impugning our retirement security. Ironically, they go on to state that the STRS Board has a fiduciary duty to act in the interest of all members of the retirement system, but ignore it has been the past and present actions by the OEA/STRS Board that have allowed and contributed to the destabilization of our retirement system.
What is blatantly obvious, is the past OEA/STRS Board and staff management/ operational philosophy from the past 2 plus decades still prevails today...all or in part. In fact, the only thing that has changed are some of the faces...however, the game remains the same. If there has been any change, it has been an attack on active and retired members' pension plans. This has been all in the name of what OEA refers to in the same article as a "shared sacrifice". To my knowledge, the only sacrifice being made is by active and retired members. The outrageous bonuses and salaries and all other indirect spending of no direct benefit to STRS members continues without skipping a beat,
The crowning blow in this OEA article is their self-serving tribute to their current endorsed members on the STRS Board. Please bear with me as I condense what could make anyone sick series of accolades that they have bestowed on themselves and their endorsed Board members:
"OEA members are represented by hard-working, knowledgeable Board members who have had advanced training on pension plans, health care, and fiduciary responsibilities." They go on to state; ""The STRS Board is constantly receiving information and asking questions of STRS staff in order to protect our pension fund-not only for retirees and active teachers, but also for future generations of teachers."
It all sounds good in writing. However reality based on the experience of many active and retired STRS members that tells us otherwise. We have been witness to how they sit in their chairs at Board meetings and are spoon-fed by STRS staff, and act on recommendations with little or no questioning regardless of members' concerns. As long as they continue this pattern of voting, we the members will continue to be victims of their actions. Board members are also very poor at responding to member emails.
In conclusion, it is time to stop the bleeding of active and retired STRS members by an OEA/STRS Board that is not transparent and less than responsive to members' concerns and needs. We need individuals on the Board that are not beholding or obligated to a single organization, incapable of being manipulated and not responsive and transparent in addressing the needs and concerns of those who they have been duly elected to represent. It is for these reasons that I encourage all active and retired STRS members to cast their vote for a change in the current representation on the Board. We must make a very critical and crucial change now...before there is nothing left to change. If we do not, we will then have one to blame but ourselves. I would strongly encourage all active and retired STRS members to vote for Elizabeth Jones, Julie Sellers and Steve Foreman.
Joe Lupo
January 24, 2022

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Edward Siedle: Five Reasons STRS Ohio Does Not Meet Definition of a Pension


ORTA Town Hall February 2, 2022


Darold Johnson, Robert Davis, Teresa Fedor, Kara Mendenhall, Wade Steen, Chris DeMarco, Dean Dennis, Bob Buerkle, Rudy  Fichtenbaum

Robin Rayfield, Executive Director of ORTA, the Ohio Retired Teachers Association
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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