Saturday, February 18, 2023

Dan MacDonald on the February 16, 2023 STRS Board meeting

From Dan MacDonald, February 18, 2023: (1) His personal report on the February 16, 2023 STRS Board meeting; (2) His Public Participation speech and (3) The STRS VERSION of February 16, 2023 Meeting  from the STRS E Update: February 17, 2023

Dan's personal report on the Board meeting:
Dan MacDonald and Robert Walters attended the STRS February Board meeting for NEO AFT retirees. Well, if you tuned into the STRS February Board meeting, you should have found the meeting being broadcast [still available on video by going to]. Rob and Dan will need make-up artists for the next Board meeting. The February 16th meeting started at 8:10 AM with the Board’s Investment Committee discussing their consultant search and their investments beliefs. [Next month’s meeting probably will be two days because the committee is allotting 75 minutes plus a 45-minute break for 3 consultants to present.] Recently hired Dr. Mazzaleni reviewed and presented data to show the importance of an active investment department and to push back on some Board members push toward more passive investment instruments and a reduction of the Investment Department staff.
The actual Board meeting was called to order at 10:10 AM. After minutes were approved, Alison Lanza Falls was introduced as a new Board member. She was appointed by the State Treasurer.
The Investment Department then gave its usual report. The total fund return for December, 2022 was a negative 2.07 percent finishing the first half of FY 2023 at a positive 0.51 percent. January’s preliminary return was a positive 4.03 percent. The preliminary total fund return for the FY at positive 4.55 percent. Total investment assets ended January at approximately $89.0 billion, higher by $1.4 billion in FY 2023. The 2022 “calendar” year, January 1 – December 31, total fund return was a negative 9.52 percent. STRS is on a fiscal year, July 1 – June 31, for accounting purposes, not a calendar year.
A “Midyear Economic Update” was presented. A “Proxy Voting Summary” was shared. Consultant Callan then gave a summary report through December 31, 2022 on the fund and its peers.
The morning ended with 11 speakers mostly challenging STRS performance; 3 supporting STRS well-being.
After lunch, the Member Benefit Department under the new leadership of Christina Elliott, discussed “Non-Social Security State Teachers’ Pension Benefits.” Eleven states were considered – California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Texas – in relationship to the benefit package for a new member: multiplier, final average salary determination, COLA provisions, unreduced eligibility requirements; plus plan resilience: employee contribution, employer contribution, additional funding (State), contribution details, variable benefits, funded ratio, member/recipient ratio. None of the pension funds aligned. The ten chosen with the addition of Ohio are close in size to allow for an “apple to apple” comparisons.
The Executive Director’s Report followed covering 8 areas.
The “Annual Update” of Enterprise Risk Management was then presented. It is basically a risk assessment of STRS across the organization with 33 areas identified in a high, medium, or low chance of happening with a high, medium or low impact if it happened with discussion on how to manage and mitigate the risk. For instance, “Recession” was added under Medium [15% – 30%] of happening within the next two years and having a Medium [$0 to $2.0 billion] effect on the fund.
The Fiduciary Audit recommendations were then discussed.
Routine Matters then followed with motions and approval. For instance, the approval of December 2022 and January 2023 expenses; Disabilities benefits, Survivor benefits, Board Education requests, etc.
Under Old Business/New Business, Board member Sellers welcomed Ms. Falls then addressed “the elephant in the room” of a divided Board and made a motion for a “Vote of Confidence” for Bill Neville the Executive Director of STRS Ohio. The motion was seconded by Steve Foreman. The vote evenly split with Ms. Falls abstaining. YEA’s: Herrington, Hunt, Lard, Price, Corrothers. NEA’s: Sellers, Forman, Fichtenbaum, Jones, Steen. [We were shocked by the motion, but not by the vote. The upcoming election for Mr. Lard’s contributing seat looms huge for the Board’s direction and STRS future path.]
Due to the weather conditions in Columbus, neither Dan not Rob attended the “Ad Hoc Governance Committee” meeting following the adjourned Board meeting which was to begin at 3:30 PM.
The next Board meeting is slated for March 16 & March 17.
Dan MacDonald & Robert Walters
~     ~     ~     ~     ~
279-R’s Public Participation, February 16 STRS Board Meeting
Good morning STRS Board. Happy Belated Valentine’s Day. I am Dan MacDonald, an STRS retiree with 38 plus years of service. I am also the Executive Director of Local 279R, North East Ohio AFT retirees.
I am hoping that as Board members that you follow the Wall Street Journal. Did you know CVS reached a $10.6 billion deal which includes debt, to buy Clinic Owner Oak Street Health. A deal that rapidly expands the big healthcare company’s footprint of primary-care doctors with a large network of senior-focused clinics, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
One of my members quickly emailed me the following: “Dan, I just read this story in the WSJ [Wall Street Journal] and it seems kind of distressing for STRS members in the Aetna Medicare Advantage Plan. Seems like they could be limiting our choices for primary care docs and CVS minute clinics will be preferred to using a real hospital facility like CCF [Cleveland Clinic Foundation] family health centers.”
As we all know, STRS is into saving money, and that is all well and good, but at what future price? STRS will soon be publishing about our January 1, 2024 changes to our prescription plan. I would hope that the Health Committee, composed of Board members, seriously discussed this change. No Health Committee meetings have been held, to my knowledge, for at least 2-3 years. Changes have been recommended by STRS staff and approved by the Board, but have their pros and cons been delved into by the Board. I hope my bright retired STRS colleague that sent me the email, and those of us that are on any STRS health and prescription plans, that these concerns will be addressed by the Board and STRS’s publications. Seniors want their physicians, their facilities and their prescriptions without jumping through multiple hurdles.
As always, actives need their future benefits enhanced and retirees need their COLA fully restored.
~     ~     ~     ~     ~
STRS VERSION of February 16, 2023 Meeting
E Update: February 17, 2023
Welcome to Alison Lanza Falls
Ohio Treasurer of State Robert Sprague appointed Alison Lanza Falls to the State Teachers Retirement Board. Falls is currently president of A.L. Falls Advisors, LLC. Falls previously held positions as a managing director with Bank of America Securities and Continental Bank. She served on the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation Board of Directors. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the State University of New York — Binghamton, a master’s degree in economics from The Ohio State University and is a CFA charterholder.
Retirement Board Looks at Pension Benefits Provided Elsewhere
Chief Benefits Officer Christina Elliott presented the board with details regarding the benefit packages new members receive from teachers-only pensions in non-Social Security states. Elliott purposely focused on states with teachers-only pension systems with similar governance structures. She also discussed pension plan resiliency to highlight the complicated structures of teacher retirement systems in other states. Elliott emphasized the importance of public pension boards considering all actuarial data and other relevant factors when comparing pensions and making changes to benefits.
Presentation slides for this and all February board presentations can be found on the STRS Ohio website.
Executive Director Recaps Auditor of State’s Report on STRS  Ohio
STRS Ohio Executive Director Bill Neville shared a summary of the Auditor of State’s recent special audit of the retirement system. Neville pointed out that of 29 allegations reviewed, the Auditor of State found only two with merit. Both were related to audits commissioned by the Ohio Retirement Study Council.
Quoting from the special audit report, “STRS’ organizational structure, control environment and operations are suitably designed and well monitored, both internally and by independent experts. These experts help assure that STRS follows applicable asset and liability measurement, reporting, investing and cash management laws, professional standards, and best practices. Our conclusions are consistent with the findings of these independent firms.”
The complete Auditor of State report is available on the STRS Ohio website.
Report Shows STRS Ohio Investment Returns Rank High
Board investment consultant Callan LLC shared its quarterly report on the performance of STRS Ohio’s investments compared to the board’s investment policy benchmark. STRS Ohio’s investment returns reflect the challenging financial markets in the United States and worldwide in 2022. The good news is, STRS Ohio performed better than its benchmark as well as most of its peers. The Callan report showed:
• STRS Ohio’s total fund return for the calendar year was –9.52%. To put this in perspective, the stock market was down –18% and the bond market was down –13%. STRS Ohio’s 2022 return beat its benchmark by 1.38%. STRS Ohio’s total fund benchmark was –10.90%. Beating this goal preserved dollars for the teachers’ pension fund.
 • STRS Ohio investments exceeded the benchmark and ranked in the top 10% of public funds examined by Callan for the three-, five-, seven- and 10-year periods.
 • When measuring risk versus performance for the past five years, STRS Ohio’s investment return ranked in the top 5% of public funds reviewed by Callan, with a portfolio that had lower average risk than its peers.
Board Reviews STRS Ohio’s Enterprise Risk Management
Chief Financial Officer Lynn Hoover shared a report outlining risks to STRS Ohio and steps taken to mitigate them. Staff identified prominent risks in each retirement system department and weighed the probability and potential financial impact of such events. This ongoing exercise helps the organization stay ahead of possible threats and ensure the long-term security of the retirement system.
Retirements Approved
The Retirement Board approved 216 active members and 178 inactive members for service retirement benefits.
Other STRS Ohio News
Retirement Board Meetings Livestreamed, Available on STRS Ohio Website
State Teachers Retirement Board meetings are held at 275 E. Broad Street in Columbus and are open to the public. The meetings are livestreamed via Zoom, with the link available through the public notice posted at one week before each meeting. A recording is posted on the STRS Ohio website the week following each meeting. The livestream and recording now include video from the Board Room.
Summary Annual Financial Report Now Available
STRS Ohio’s Summary Annual Financial Report (SAFR) is now available on the website under Annual Reports. The 16-page publication is a reader-friendly summary of the more detailed Annual Comprehensive Financial Report. The SAFR includes streamlined information on funding and investments, membership, the economic impact of STRS Ohio and much more.

Friday, February 17, 2023

NBC4i: Ohio teacher pension fund board not confident in executive director

NBC4i Digital

By Maeve Walsh
February 17, 2023
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The 11-member board of the State Teachers Retirement System is not confident in the pension fund’s leader.
In a split vote Thursday afternoon, the board rejected a motion to declare confidence in STRS Executive Director William Neville, who has presided over the $90 billion public teacher pension fund since June 2020. The final vote — five in favor, five against and one abstaining — fell short of the six votes needed to assert confidence in Neville.
“We have to have a change at the top,” said STRS board member Julie Sellers, who introduced the motion. “The problems that have been here have been here for years, and I just feel like we need to have a direction forward.”
Thursday’s vote came after a contentious few years between Ohio’s public school teachers and the pension fund’s management.
In June 2021, the Ohio Retired Teachers Association commissioned a forensic audit that found “serious deficiencies” in STRS’s finances, coupled with lavish bonuses for its investment staff while teachers’ cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, sat stagnant.
Ohio Auditor Keith Faber’s review of the pension fund in December 2022 found no evidence of illegality in the pension fund’s management, adding that its structure, environment and operations “are suitably designed and well-monitored.” However, Faber recommended STRS bolster its transparency.
At Thursday’s meeting, STRS board members Elizabeth Jones, Rudy Fichtenbaum, Steven Foreman, Julie Sellers and Wade Steen rejected the motion to declare confidence in Neville.
Read the rest here

Sue Brannan's speech to STRS Board February 16, 2023

Ms. Correthers, Board Members, Actives, Retirees, & STRS Employees:

I'm Sue Brannan, a former public school classroom teacher, retired in 1995 with 30 years of service.

My retirement is 62% of my highest 3 years. The COLA, paid out through 2017 did help with inflation.

On the STRS Website, the STRS Mission & Vision statement is “To partner with our members in helping to build retirement security.” However, the listed “Guiding Principles”work against building retirement security.


The Cafeteria, Child Care, & Physical Fitness businesses operated by STRS are NOT “cost neutral”.

All 3 lose money & add huge expenses which are subsidized by Active Educators, who pay in 14%, & by Retirees who receive no regular inflation fighting COLA. Is it laughable that Actives & Retirees (the Members), are subsidizing employees, excuse me, Associates, who receive regular pay raises & in about 100 cases, bonuses?

A friend of mine frequently says: “Advice freely given, can be freely ignored!” That seems to be the case, I'll bang my head against a brick wall again.

Get out your smart phones.

- Google: Food/Restaurants Near Me – Or “brown bag it”.

- Google: Child Care Near Me – Only 40 – 75 children in attendance?

-Google: Fitness Facilities Near Me – Or go outside & walk around this 7 acre area.

-If the long range plan is to keep this multi storied building, SELL the spaces & equipment in this building to already established Food, Child Care, & Fitness Businesses. Make some money!

Other concerns include:

-Ohio has no funding plan for public education. Local levies are virtually impossible to pass.

-The Ohio Legislature continues to expand Charter & Voucher programs. How many pay into STRS?

-It's not the 1980's when the coupon on a 30 year U.S. Treasury Bond was 12.75% or higher.

-Bear Markets are real. No one here has mentioned that ¼ of the S & L's were lost in 1987.

-“Alternatives have yet to “pay the piper” as an investment class.

Finally, We, the STRS Organization, need to CUT Expenses & “Stick to Our Knitting” These meetings have to be actually informative about where EXPENSES can be cut.

The time is NOW to Restructure STRS, by cutting Expenses to build ACTUAL Retirement Security for Members.

STRS Board Meeting

February 16, 2023

Dean Dennis' speech to STRS Board February 16, 2023

February 16, 2023 Dean Dennis, retiree 35 years of service.

Normal Cost is generally defined as the contribution amount to cover retirement benefits earned in any given year under the plan's funding policy. The normal cost "prefunds" or "pays in advance" for the promised pension benefits.
Last year, the STRS Board's actuary determined that a normal cost of 11.09% was necessary to prefund this future promised pension benefit. Of note, our active teachers pay an Employee Contribution of 14%. This makes them the only public employees in the nation whose contribution is higher than their normal cost. Why is this? It's due to mismanagement.
Here are some facts. Ohio's retired teachers and perhaps Louisiana's retired teachers are the only teachers in the nation who don't have any inflation protection. Ohio teacher's 14% Employee Contribution is the second highest in the nation. Ohio teachers work more years than other teachers in the nation for a full pension, then are on a path of financial decline after retiring. Ohio teachers and retirees deserve better. They have a really bad deal. Really bad.
It's hard coming up to Columbus year after year, as inflation eats away at our pension, and listen to STRS tell us how fortunate we are to have an in-house-staff who has saved us so much money. And then, we get to watch 6-figure investment staff bonuses be approved. We listen to our Trustees being told staff has beaten their Benchmarks. Then we watch our Trustees try to understand the Benchmarks. Staff also tells trustees and members, their annual investment costs of 11-12 basis points, are way lower than their peers. Then we learn their reported annual investment costs are different in the CEM report; and then we learn they are different in the ORSC (Ohio Retirement Study Council) report. Lastly, how about learning about the half-billion dollar Panda loss three years after Panda went bankrupt?
I live in Cincinnati, we had a football team (Bengals) who went 31 years without winning a playoff game. The fans were ready to mutiny. Then on January 15, 2022 the team finally won a playoff game. The Bengals even ended up going to the Super Bowl. This, however, occurred only after a decision was made two years earlier to hire new coaches and change direction.
Trustees, STRS is being bailed out on the backs of the people you represent. You know this. That said, nothing different seems to be happening. There is no change of direction. It's time.

Cathy Steinhauser's speech to STRS Board February 16, 2023

Cathy Steinhauser – 35 yrs. teaching Family & Consumer Sciences as a satellite teacher w/Pickaway-Ross CTC.

Just a reminder, since it’s been a while since the last Board mtg. and we didn’t want you to forget the definition of a fiduciary:
“A person who acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their client’s interests ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary requires being bound both LEGALLY AND ETHICALLY to act in others best interests.”
Many more issues have come to light since December of last year. Many members keep digging up more information that the STRS Board has kept from the members who own this pension and as this membership learns of all the wrongdoing, we will continue to let you know that these actions are totally unacceptable. We will continue to fight back until the Board fulfills its fiduciary duty it was elected or appointed to do.
Here are a few of the things we want:
1. We’ve let you know that we didn’t want this building. Since many of the STRS staff still work at home there is no need to hang on to such a monstrosity with many empty offices as well as large open areas of wasted space. It needs to be sold or sections rented out. There was a question of breaches of security as to why you couldn’t rent but if anyone wanted to hack into a business’s information system, no amount of security is immune. Pickaway County Courthouse, in December 2022, was hacked into. They were told that there are 4000 reported computer breaches every day to the FBI and/or Homeland Security and 40 courts and/or city administrations were breached within a 2 month period of time.
2. We’ve let you know that we didn’t want all the artwork. Our retirement money bought that huge piece behind me and I haven’t heard any STRS pension member say anything nice about it. It’s called “Integrity” which is laughable to have that in this building and claim STRS has that quality. It would be better to showcase Ohio students'. artwork on a rotating schedule.
3. An audit was finally performed by Keith Faber. He claimed there were no laws violated. Many teachers disagree as do several news media outlets so there must be a fine line. It was suggested that STRS needs to demonstrate transparency, especially the fund’s investment strategy and the process that paid 10M in incentives. It’s appalling that Faber gave STRS a “transparency award” last year but on Dec. 29, 2022 Faber says STRS needs to improve their much for that fake award.
4. All other state pensions in Ohio have consistently given COLAs each year but STRS has not. We’ve told you that STRS members want you to cut expenses. Let’s start with freezing your salaries, cutting staff, stopping the bonuses and raises, doing away with the subsidized cafeteria and childcare center as well as this building. You can brown bag your lunch like teachers and the staff can find their own childcare; most teachers do this all the time. The budget needs to be reined in and STRS needs to demonstrate shared sacrifice!! Ever seen the 1993 movie “Dave” about a man recruited as a stand-in for the President? His friend, a humble accountant, Murray, balanced the U.S. budget. Be like Murray!

Robin Rayfield's speech to STRS Board February 16, 2023

Good morning. My name is Robin Rayfield. I am a retired STRS member and Executive Director of the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association.

On several occasions I have addressed the STRS board asking what is the ‘pathway’ to restoration of promised benefits. My request for a plan or pathway to restoration of benefits has not been provided. We often hear statements from STRS leaders that ‘the current plan is working, our funding ratio is improving each year’. Or something like ‘the measures taken with regards to pension reform have proven to be successful. It just takes time’. These statements lead me to believe that STRS’s plan is to keep doing what it is currently doing and things will improve with the next economic cycle. What the plan seems to be in reality is this: 
 Make people pay more, work longer, and collect less.
 Cut benefits to retirees.
I’m sure that is not how this pension reform was advertised nor how it was communicated to members of STRS. I have been asked by STRS management what My plan might include. OK here are some of the ideas I have:
1. Transition to more indexed-based investment strategies. The returns will be better as verified by the auditor of state Faber. 
2. Passive investing will require a significantly smaller investment staff saving money.
3. Eliminate the PBI program.
4. Eliminate all fringe benefits such as cafeteria services, childcare services, and gymnasium services that carry any financial burden to the STRS pension system.
5. While transitioning to an indexed based investment system, provide transparency with all investment information. Do not invest in any strategy that claims trade secret status and is not made public.
6. Explore all strategies to increase revenue to STRS that show promise such as employer contribution increases, and or investment strategies.
7. Sell the building and move into a site that costs less. With so many staff working from home the need for space must be less than before.
As I have stated many times before, ORTA (and many other individuals) are ready to be partners in the solutions to our pension’s problems. After all, the current leadership has dug the current hole we are in and it's not getting better. It's time for changes in the direction at STRS.

Bob Buerkle's speech to STRS Board February 16, 2023

Setting the Record Straight 

STRS Speech by Bob Buerkle 02/16/2023
On "Groundhog Day" I received an STRS E-update claiming that there were social media groups spreading misinformation about the STRS Pension benefits that members are paying for. This reminded me of two things. I have heard this before from STRS about misinformation, and I have heard STRS claim how great they are doing, over and over and over again. This occurs at virtually every Board meeting, every presentation by our hired consultants and actuaries, every group presentation by STRS and in most STRS Newsletters. Every day I wake up with the same feeling, like it's never going to end! I will attempt to set the record straight today by presenting two scenarios; the current STRS pension plan and a self-directed investment plan.
Here's the self-directed account value you would accumulate if you invested $7000 annually for 35 straight years and earned a 7% annual investment return average.
I chose a 35-year investment period because STRS currently requires teachers to work for 35-years. I also chose an average 7% return because that is the investment return assumption STRS currently uses. In this scenario the total of $245,000 dollars invested, will more than quadruple in value over the 35-year period. Also, assuming a 7% continuing return average thereafter, without ever touching your $1,042,394 of principal, this account will generate an annual income of over $70,000 per year, forever. Upon death, the entire $1,042,394 of principal will belong to the teacher's heirs.
Now let's compare this scenario to an STRS Pension. I used a $60,000 salary average for all 35-years and a $70,000 Final Average Salary. And how much was contributed by the STRS Employee? Well, 14% of $60,000 = $8400 per year and the employer contributed another $8400 per year. That's $16,800 per year, or $588,000 in contributions based on a total career earnings of $2,100,000. After 35 years of service, STRS would then provide a pension of $53,900. (35yrs x 2.2% = 77% of $70,000 = $53,900)
When you &/or spouse die, the pension stops and STRS keeps all of the remaining principal. In fact, a 35-year career retiree will also receive 5 fewer years of pension payments than a 30-year retiree. Five years of pension payments = $269,500 less in lifetime income.
Can you now see why STRS Management is writing mass E-UPDATE Newsletters to our membership, scrambling to overcome the storm that they have created? 

Suzanne Laird's speech to STRS Board February 16, 2023

Good Morning, Members of MY Board, and Happy Black History Month. 

I draw inspiration from many of the great African-American leaders, such as John Lewis:
"When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. Do something! Get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble!"
I come before you, once again, as I have for more than 7 years, to speak on behalf of those who cannot attend these meetings. We know you've labeled us "a few malcontents and troublemakers." It's even trickled down to the staff members here:
Last month, I needed to ask a question regarding my dental benefits. When I called and stated my name and membership number, I was suddenly transferred to a supervisor. The supervisor heard my name and told me she needed to do some research and get back to me. I asked her name, hung up, and waited. When she did not return my call that day or the next, I called back.
She told me she had checked with her IT department and her supervisor and found out that "you have been at Board meetings asking questions." I admitted that yes, I had. "Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I can't help you."
I will never know the level of discrimination that John Lewis endured, but the fact that I speak at these meetings should never affect how I, or any other member, am treated by our employees.
I proudly bear the title, "troublemaker."
And what's more, I challenge each of you: cause some good trouble.
When you see something that is not right, say, for example, teachers working longer for less and contributing more, speak up.
When you are asked to approve raises and bonuses, but no permanent COLA, do something!
Perhaps, someday, someone will remember you as an STRS Board member worthy of being called inspirational.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

From nbc4 WCMH: STRS Ohio board not confident in executive director

Ohio teacher pension fund board not confident in executive director
by: Maeve Walsh
February 16, 2023 
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The 11-member board of the State Teachers Retirement System is not confident in the pension fund’s leader.
In a split vote Thursday afternoon, the board rejected a motion to declare confidence in STRS Executive Director William Neville, who has presided over the $90 billion public teacher pension fund since June 2020. The final vote — five in favor, five against and one abstaining — fell short of the six votes needed to assert confidence in Neville.
“We have to have a change at the top,” said STRS board member Julie Sellers, who introduced the motion. “The problems that have been here have been here for years, and I just feel like we need to have a direction forward.”
Thursday’s vote came after a contentious few years between Ohio’s public school teachers and the pension fund’s management.
In June 2021, the Ohio Retired Teachers Association commissioned a forensic audit that found “serious deficiencies” in STRS’s finances, coupled with lavish bonuses for its investment staff while teachers’ cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, sat stagnant.
Ohio Auditor Keith Faber’s review of the pension fund in December 2022 found no evidence of illegality in the pension fund’s management, adding that its structure, environment and operations “are suitably designed and well-monitored.” However, Faber recommended STRS bolster its transparency.
At Thursday’s meeting, STRS board members Elizabeth Jones, Rudy Fichtenbaum, Steven Foreman, Julie Sellers and Wade Steen rejected the motion to declare confidence in Neville.
Chairwoman Carol Correthers, Vice Chairman Dale Price, board members Claudia Herrington and Arthur Lard, and Scott Hunt, on behalf of the state’s Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Siddens, voted in favor of declaring confidence in Neville. Board member Alison Falls abstained from the vote.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

How many meals could have been provided for the most indigent retired teachers, thanks to the generosity of those STRS Board members who voted "yes" to pay that $10 million in undeserved bonuses? You know who they are. 

New York Times
February 14, 2023
Food Prices Weigh on Seniors’ Savings, Health and Even Social Ties
As costs rise, many older Americans have changed the way they shop and eat out. For some, it could affect their health or leave them feeling isolated.
A white-haired woman peers into her kitchen refrigerator while a cat stands nearby.
For the better part of the past year, Marilynn Miller stretched her food budget.
With a monthly Social Security check as her only income, Ms. Miller, 89, shops for her groceries at Walmart. Occasional dinners out with friends have become too expensive. She no longer buys any prepared meals because of the cost, and eats cheese and beans instead of meat.
“I’ve probably eliminated 90 percent of buying any meat because it’s so expensive,” said Ms. Miller, who lives in a senior community in Crest Hill, Ill., about 40 miles southwest of Chicago.
All across the country, rising prices at grocery stores and restaurants have altered how many Americans — including a good number older than 65 — shop and eat out. While food prices are expected to moderate a bit this year, many people will still feel squeezed. After climbing nearly 10 percent last year, food prices are expected to rise another 7 percent in 2023, according to the Department of Agriculture. .
The cost of dairy, cereals and baked goods continues to rise. Eggs, once a low-cost meal staple, jumped to a national average of $4.25 a dozen in December from $1.78 a year earlier, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Combined with higher transportation and housing prices, the rising cost of food is being felt disproportionately by lower-income households, meaning those with $50,000 or less in annual income, according to a study released in January by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And in 2021, about six million Americans over 65 — more than 10 percent of their population — were living below the poverty line, according to data from the Census Bureau. And while Social Security benefits increased by 8.7 percent this year, their biggest inflation adjustment in decades, it is still not enough for many retirees.
As prices climb, experts worry that older individuals who are in poor physical or mental health or who have lower incomes are at greater risk for not having enough food or for eating less healthy foods. The squeeze also has the potential to isolate them socially, if they back away from activities like eating out with friends.
“This is a group that has diabetes, heart disease and cancer risk,” said Dr. Preeti Malani, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and a member of the National Poll on Healthy Aging research team. “For them, food is part of their health and right now, money has become a big barrier to eating healthy for a lot of people.”
While many have only slightly moderated their grocery shopping and eating out habits thanks to significant savings, or income from pensions or other retirement accounts, a number of retirees across the country say the prices have altered their behavior.
Some are clipping coupons and planning menus for the week in order to buy only what is on sale and what they are sure they will need. (This can be a positive, since many say they now throw less food away.) Some now shop at Walmart, Dollar Tree and other discount stores. Some say they buy less meat and “treats,” like soda, ice cream or alcohol.
Some are going to food banks for the first time.
“I reached my breaking point, and I had to go to the food bank,” said Linda Nygaard, 72, who lives on Vashon Island in Washington State. She said she relied mostly on Social Security for her income.
Like others, Ms. Nygaard, a self-described “foodie,” said she had switched from more-expensive grocery stores to places like Trader Joe’s or Grocery Outlet. She occasionally goes to a food bank to pick up onions, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables, as well as dairy items.
“I debate over the prices now,” Ms. Nygaard said. “Should I get it or not? And then I find myself thinking I don’t need it. I shop for two to three days at a time, and then I eat the leftovers so nothing goes bad in the refrigerator. The soggy lettuce problem everybody has in their refrigerator? I find a way to use it now, so the upside is there’s less food waste.”
Another way Ms. Nygaard avoids food waste is that she and others share the pies and soups they make with others in her senior community. “I have a terrible sweet tooth, and I love to bake, but I can’t eat an entire pie by myself,” she said. “So I take slices of the pie to others in the building so we all can enjoy it.”
While some seniors say they are nervous about making ends meet, they are even more frightened about cutting themselves off from others.
“The lack of access to food can make older Americans more socially isolated,” said Colleen Heflin, a professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University who is co-writing a book on food insecurity and older Americans. “For some, it can mean the end of Sunday dinners at their house because they can no longer afford to feed their families.
“Food, for many older adults, is a way to bring family to you, and if you cannot afford it, you’re either not going to do it or you’re going to have less food for yourself later in the week because you value that interaction so highly.”
Some who had avoided restaurants and crowds for much of the pandemic were eager to step out with friends for dinners, but those nights out became expensive.
“I started going out for lunches once or twice a week, but then the lunches turned into $20, and that’s a lot of money,” said Sharon Cohen, 73, who owned a communications business for decades. Instead, Ms. Cohen and her friends now go on walks, or have friends over for book club gatherings. Occasionally, she meets people at a local hub for an egg and bagel sandwich.
“As you get older, and especially after Covid,” she said, “it becomes really important to get out and be with people, even if it’s for a walk or a coffee.”
While Ms. Cohen and her husband, Jean-Henry Mathurin, 80, have retirement savings plans from their employers, they are trying to save that money in case one or both of them need to stay at a health care facility at some point. In the meantime, they’re trying to pay their bills, including repairs and upkeep on their 300-year-old home in Newtown, Conn.
To stretch their Social Security checks, Ms. Cohen and her husband have looked for ways to cut costs. They have turned down the heat and reduced their phone bills. She buys less beef and purchases her favorite Late July chips only when they are on sale. And even though Ms. Cohen loves scallops, she eschews them for less expensive seafood like flounder and cod fillets.
“And we’ve probably eaten more tuna fish in the past year than we ever have,” she said, laughing.
But after two bouts with cancer in the past five years, Ms. Cohen said she was also conscious about eating healthy.
Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Dr. Rayfield educates the State Board of Education on a few doings at STRS

By Cindy Murphy

February 14, 2023

Please watch & share!

"It is an unequivocal fact. Ohio teachers have the worst pension deal in America."

Dr. Robin Rayfield, Executive Director of the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association (ORTA), addressed the State Board of Education today.

He addressed the voting history of STRS Ohio Board member Dr. Scott J. Hunt, who was appointed by Stephanie K. Siddens, Ph.D., Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction, to serve as her desginee on the STRS Ohio Retirement Board.

Dr. Rayfield also addressed the perennial granting of large bonuses to STRS Ohio investment staff, while Ohio teachers' retirement benefits have been continuously reduced since 2012.

Dr. Rayfield's presentation begins at 34:40 and continues for 20 minutes.

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