Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Tom Curtis' report on the Norton Town Hall Meeting: Neville totally controls the meeting and attendance is of minimal worth for the huge expense that it costs to put each meeting on. The propaganda machine roars ahead full steam.

From Tom Curtis

November 15, 2023

11.14.23 Norton Town Hall Meeting
Bill Neville had another of his Town Hall meetings (dog and pony shows) in Norton on Tuesday 11.14.23. There was a crowd of about 40-45 members in attendance. Seven (7) full-time STRS staff members and Board Vice-chair Carol Correthers were in attendance. Carol did not speak to the crowd. The meeting was recorded and should be available on the STRS website soon.
I provided the attendees with 2 handouts, the 2-page Mess at STRS flyer and a 2-page copy of the 11.14.23 Toledo Blade article concerning the lavish pay raises recently given to the investment staff, and included the STRS listing showing who received the raises, the payout amounts and percentage of increase for each employee. The minimum increase was 5.14%, the highest was 48.7%, with the average being 17.23% increase in pay. The average increase was $32,000 per employee. In comparison, retirees received a 1% increase this year.
One female retiree told me that it made no difference to her how much they paid the investment staff because they had such quality people. I asked her a few questions about the investment staff and investments they made, and she had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, but she was firm on her thought that the STRS investment staff were the greatest and should be paid well. This brief communication with this member would indicate to me that she simply believes all of the propaganda STRS publishes without any real knowledge of how well the investment staff truly are doing. In my opinion, this is a prime example of why the pension fund has been looted of billions of dollars, because the vast majority of the members have no knowledge what is truly being done with actives’ contributions. The membership has been lied to and Bill Neville keeps the lies alive at every town hall meeting he holds.
There were many questions about HC coverage, retirement and the COLA. Neville blames the fact that we are only receiving a 1% COLA on Cheiron, the company that performs the STRS valuation. Cheiron can always find money for the staff, but not for the members.
The STRS staff is the highest paid staff in the nation and yet the actives have the worst retirement deal in the nation. STRS is the only Ohio pension system that has failed to provide their members with a promised COLA for 7-10 years. STRS has saved multi-millions by not paying the promised 3% COLA for all of those years, yet is still not funded well enough to provide the promised 3% annual COLA today and Neville says he has no idea when it might return.
Neville was asked what he was doing to reduce costs. He said they had reduced the staff from a high of 720+ to just under 500 but gave no time span for having done so nor gave any indication that more cuts would be made. The high of 700+ employees was in 2003 and had not been near that number for at least a decade. Neville is in essence taking credit for a reduction in staff that he had little to do with. Why in the world do they need a staff of 500? No budget cuts were mentioned. Neville indicated that they had now cleared out the original portion of the office building and are looking for someone to rent it, but said it is a very difficult market and gave no indication when that might happen or possible revenue that might be derived. Massive expenditure cuts are needed at STRS and Bill Neville obviously has no thought of reducing costs, for he mentioned no other cost cutting plans.
Neville was asked why he gave the investment staff 11 million in bonuses this year, he said it was only 8.6 million and that the Board were the ones to give the bonuses, not him, but offered no explanation.
Neville indicated in one of his slides that from 2001-2021 the investment department outperformed the S & P 500 by 47%. I asked a question about the graph the Auditor of State published in 2022 showing that from 2009-2021 the investment department underperformed the S & P 500 index fund by 90 billion dollars, that is a 50% underperformance. He claimed that could not be compared because it was not for the same time period and that the S & P 500 value would need to be taken back to zero and started over again in 2009 and continued to explain it away in Bill Neville fashion by responding in a manner that no one could understand. He cannot be held responsible for anything; it is always someone else’s fault. Once a question was asked a follow up question was not permitted.
A school union president indicated that her school is in the process of cutting 5 teachers because their levy did not pass. She said she is very worried that if STRS was successful in getting a 4% increase in the employer contribution, that would lead to massive numbers of teacher lay-offs. Neville said that the employer contribution has not been changed from 14% since 1983 and that it is time that it be raised. Neville offered no compassion or empathy for what the school union president was concerned about.
My takeaway from what I experienced, Bill Neville continues to present propaganda and lies to the membership at these meetings and cannot be held accountable for anything he states or says because he refutes anything that is asked of him about his wild claims. He defends everything STRS does and no one is allowed to ask a second question. Neville totally controls the meeting and attendance is of minimal worth for the huge expense that it costs to put each meeting on. The propaganda machine roars ahead full steam.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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