Friday, February 18, 2022

Recording: Public speeches given before the STRS Board, February 17, 2022

Robin Rayfield to STRS Board, 2/17/22; Paying people far more than they are worth does not make you a top tier pension system. Paying people a pension that is commensurate with their contribution rate and paying retirees what you promised would be a start towards earning a top tier designation.

From Robin Rayfield

February 17, 2022

Greetings STRS Board Members:

My name is Robin Rayfield. I serve as the executive director of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association representing thousands of STRS beneficiaries. I am a STRS retiree having retired in 2011 with over 30 years of service.

As a retired principal and superintendent, I had the great fortune to hire many first-year teachers over the years. I always stressed that, even though the pay for a beginning teacher was low, they would receive step increases each year and that their pay would increase at a rapid pace. I also explained how the STRS retirement system worked and that when retirement came, they would be happy that they paid 10% or now 14% of their salary towards STRS.

I think of how that conversation would go if I were working now… Well son, the beauty of the STRS system is that you pay 14% and the district pays 14%. Let’s look at what you get for your fourteen%... For every dollar that you contribute, STRS will give you seventy-seven cents when you retire. Doesn’t that sound great? Just think of it, you will pay 14% directly out of your salary and you will get a benefit that is worth 10.8%.

And, you will know that as an STRS member, you will be a part of the only pension system in the US where the individual pays in more than the pension is worth. That’s right, you truly will have the worst deal in America. Your contribution rate will be the highest in the US while your employer pays the lowest rate in America.

Make no mistake about it, STRS and the consultants that they hire will tell you that STRS is a top tier pension system. Never mind that:

·         Retirees have experienced a reduction in the benefits promised in each of the last several years

·         Active teachers pay more than their pension is worth

I guess the reason STRS considers itself a top tier pension system is because their employees are paid so well. Sixty-five people at STRS make over $200 K per year which is tops in the US public pension world.

Newsflash for STRS Board Members, paying people far more than they are worth does not make you a top tier pension system. Paying people, a pension that is commensurate with their contribution rate, and paying retirees what you promised would be a start towards earning a top tier designation.

Dean Dennis's speech to STRS Board 2/17/22

From Dean Dennis

February 17, 2022

I am Dean Dennis, retiree, STRS Chair for Cincinnati Local 1520-R. I'm one of the Ohio STRS Members Only Forum Moderators, Founder of the Ohio STRS Watchdogs and Member of ORTA's Legislative Committee.

Since last September, I've been asking that our Board Chair have STRS explain the breakdown of the 2021 STRS total investment costs (difference between gross and net returns). They are stated as 12 basis points. The August 2021 STRS Board News shows annual investment costs over a 30 year period are 10 basis points. Problematic is that STRS investment costs differ drastically from other public pension plans.

For instance, investment expert Richard Ennis thinks public pensions investment costs are as high as 110 bps.  The National Conference on Public Employees Retirement Systems states they are around 54 bps. These are significantly higher than what STRS reports. That said, in 2018  STRS's paid consultant, CEM, did report STRS annual investment costs as 36.9 bps in the  STRS Response to Benchmark Financial Services report that was disputing Edward Siedle's claim that the 2018 STRS annual investment costs were probably closer to 60 bps. This is an important conversation because when monitoring a pension system with $95 billion, a 25 bps discrepancy amounts to nearly $28 billion over a 30 year period.

Regarding the COLA, retirees need to be able to plan, making them go year-to-year wondering if there will be a COLA isn't right. Retirees too need to be able to deter plan if they can buy a car or replace a roof. After we retire, our life span is only 18 years so going without a COLA is significant. Over 35,000 retirees have died without receiving the COLA that was promised to them.

Lastly, roadblock statements about the COLA aren't productive. The STRS Communications Director told the press that "a 2% cost of living increase would require doubling the employer contribution rate to about 28% of payroll" recently, the OEA Secretary Treasurer repeated this statement.  Restoring the COLA will cost $13 billion. Amortized over 18 years (life expectancy)  an additional $.76 billion is needed annually.  An 1% increase to the Employer Contribution brings in $121.4 million annually, it seems to me a 6.25% increase will cover the needed $.76 billion.  It's reasonable to raise the Employer Contribution to 20%, it has been set at 14% for 38 years.

Additionally, 20% is still 2-3% below the other non-Social-Security states. OFT has stated support of raising the employer contribution, recently OEA went on record agreeing that the employer contribution needed to be raised. Perhaps the STRS Board can draft a resolution of support and we can all work together and improve the lives of Ohio's teachers by taking this important step to shore up our pension.

Dan MacDonald to STRS Board 2/17/22: Actives need their future benefits enhanced and retirees need their COLA fully restored. I hope there are no shenanigans happening.

From Dan MacDonald 

February 17, 2022

Good morning.  Happy Belated Valentine’s Day. I am Dan MacDonald, an STRS retiree from Cleveland Hts University Hts City Schools with 38 years of service plus some more after retirement. I am Executive Director of NEO AFT Retirees,a Local 279R. I would like to give kudos to the Benefits Department, particularly Greg Nickell and his staff, for their swift resolution of issues that arose in December when some of our members’ spouses attempted to change Medicare plans and suddenly were without a health plan after deadlines.  To the best of my knowledge through the work of many, including STRS Benefits, plans launched on January 1 as they should have.  

Along with Mr. Price and other Board members at January’s board meeting, I was surprised by a scorecard projection that gave a score of zero both under the current baseline and Lever 2.  The STRS developed scorecard is set to a target range of 2.5% - 10% funded ratio. The ratio is specified in the board’s funding policy. Although I do not have the policy language, a few years ago, the STRS actuary was built into policy language around the consideration of a COLA.   Although I heard the internal actuary state that tremendous progress had been made through sacrifice, sustained focus and good fortune, the considered lever is still outside policy range and the lever will increase risk. Is the internal actuary on-board with Lever 2?  That isn’t what I heard, I heard serious concern. I also didn’t hear a no and I also did not hear a yes go for it.  I did hear stated that levers would need to go through the state legislatures if a serious financial downturn occurred. I bring this up since the Board is under an election cycle of three seats, two contributing seats and one retiree seat.  I hope that the serious consideration of Lever Two is not being considered to preserve the status quo on the board and within STRS.  Since August 2021, meetings have shown that the Board is questioning one voice. The timing of Yoel Mayerfeld replacement by the treasurer of state to appointee Scott Roulston adds to my concern. I know I can be cynical, but all this coming together at this time makes me wonder.

With that said, our retirees appreciate a move to a COLA and I hope the actives appreciate the consideration of the elimination of age sixty. Still, actives need their future benefits enhanced and retirees need their COLA fully restored. I hope there are no shenanigans happening.  Thank you.

Suzanne Laird to STRS Board 2/17/22: We hear the term “shared sacrifice” bandied about, but the only ones sacrificing are the current and retired teachers.

From Suzanne Laird

February 17, 2022
Good Morning, Members of MY Board:
My name is Suzanne Laird, and I taught for more than 30 years, waaaay too long to be treated with such disrespect by Board members elected to represent me and my fellow Ohio educators.
Did you really think that we would settle for a ONE TIME only 2% COLA?!
Do you really believe that current and future teachers will continue to serve while being forced to relinquish 14% of their salaries to the deep, dark pockets of STRS?!
I would like to respectfully remind you that you are here at OUR behest: when we take the time to come here and speak, our suggestions deserve to be considered.
We hear the term “shared sacrifice” bandied about, but the only ones sacrificing are the current and retired teachers. 
We are told, “Oh, we can’t possibly freeze the salaries of the investment staff or curtail their bonuses.” Yes, yes you can. You froze the COLA didn’t you? You have the power, you lack the fortitude. We are told, “Oh, it wouldn’t make a difference, anyway.” Well, let’s try it and see. As Colleen Marshall stated earlier this week, it certainly would make a difference in the optics. And perhaps, the bottom line. Shared sacrifice, remember?
The COVID pandemic has forced educators to drastically rethink how they deliver education to their students. This Board must drastically rethink how it delivers the earned benefits to the educators of Ohio.
We desperately need a change in investment strategies. When a new proposal is brought before you, it deserves careful consideration. Now, there’s no shame in admitting genuine ignorance if you don’t understand the proposal — we teachers help with that every day! But our concern is whether we are witnessing genuine ignorance or willful ignorance.
If you have a better proposal, speak up! Or demand that the consultants devise an alternative way of increasing the returns.
If you’re not up to the task, kindly remove yourself from the Board. There’s no shame in that. The shame is not having the humility to admit it, and humbly serve the hard working teachers of Ohio.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

A heads-up for active teacher OEA members: You are paying far too high salaries (no wonder your dues are out of sight!) on TOP of your unspeakably high contribution to STRS

With special thanks to John Curry           
February 16, 2022
It was recently mentioned that our two Watchdogs Facebook pages are "anti-union." This is FAR from the truth. There are "good unions" and there are "bad unions," just like there are good people and there are bad people. In fact, there is a night and day difference in their pay scales also. IF you don't believe me take a look (below) at both unions' pay to their "top 10" employees. This data is PUBLIC INFORMATION as it came from the U.S. Dept. of Labor Forms LM-2 that every labor union has to file every year. If you go to our "Files" section you will find the entire pay data for both unions in Schedules 11 and 12 of their respective filings. Look under "Column D - Gross Salary Disbursements (before any deductions)" column. My personal opinion is that if you are an OEA are paying far too high salaries....kinda' like the STRS does with their investments folks. Here you and contrast. Once again, this is PUBLIC INFORMATION. I know which union I would like to join if I started back teaching tomorrow (I retired in 2000)!
P.S. Were you aware that the prior and current Secretary/Treasurers of the OEA (Tim Myers/Mark Hill) were both STRS Board members before they took their Secretary/Treasurer jobs at OEA?

Monday, February 14, 2022

Candidate for reelection to STRS Board

 Cheshire cat

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
web page counter
Vermont Teddy Bear Company