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Below is the latest CTU-R updates/information:
It was so awesome seeing everyone who came out for our September 9 General Meeting! Our last in-person meeting was 17 months ago. It was definitely a morale booster to see so many eyes above the masks. (SMILE!) The Executive Council thanks you for your continued support through your membership in our efforts to protect our pensions.
Sock Drive Donations
Donations to the Sock Drive for the Homeless had a great start at the General Meeting. To date, we have collected 118 pairs of socks and $376 which we will use to shop for more socks.
October monetary donations to the Sock Drive can be mailed to the Halle Building, 1228 Euclid Avenue Suite 300, Cleveland, OH 44115. Please make your check payable to 279-R, and then write SOCKS in the memo. Our community has a need. Thank you for your generosity.
October 14 Meeting via ZOOM
The cases of coronavirus are increasing in Ohio. As a result of these unsafe conditions, we are going back to ZOOM for our General Meetings. As retirees, we need to be extra careful to maintain our health and safety.
The meeting ID and password are listed below. You will need the ZOOM APP on your computer, laptop, notebook, or smartphone. Or you can call in to join the meeting by using any of the telephone numbers below.
Topic: 279-R General Meeting
Time: October 14, 2021
10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Link to Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 893 9900 4815
Dial by your location:
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
Find your local number:
Donations to Scholarship Fund
We welcome your donations to our Scholarship Fund, especially since we were not able to hold our monthly raffles for the Scholarship Committee or the June basket raffle last year.
The following people recently made donations: 279-R in memory of Ray Kikta; Addiebelle Frazier in honor of all listed; Jane Huml in honor of all listed; Rita A Lewis in memory of Ella Wright; Lydia Martin in honor of Karole Jones; and Tony Miceli in memory of Ray Kikta. Thank you!
If we missed listing your scholarship donation, please contact us at 216-482-2281.We appreciate your generous support. All scholarship donations go into the 279-R Scholarship Fund at Cleveland State University.
When you donate, please put the notation “279-R Scholarship Fund” on the memo line of the check or money order that you send along with the completed enclosed form.
How to Contact Us
Our direct numbers are: Membership Information 216-482-2281; Pension Line (STRS or SERS) 216-482-2282; other calls 216-482-2280. If no one answers, please leave a message spelling your last name, and phone number. You will receive a call as soon as possible. We encourage 279-R members to access our retiree link from the CTU website. The website address is listed under the letterhead of this newsletter.
Happy fall and happy Halloween! Be safe.
Greetings from the Membership Committee. We had a total of 84 members at our September 9 meeting. Karen Bosiacki won the drawing for the gift basket for bringing in new members. Go Karen!
As of the latest count, we have 718 current members. Even though August and September are the big renewal months, we take new members and renewals all year long. We represent 19 different locals, so we should be able to get our membership up to over 1,000.
Don’t forget to send in your 2021-2022 Membership Form and dues. Take advantage of the early bird special ($45) by sending in your form by October 14. After that, dues are $50 for the year. You can download and print a Membership Form from the CTU website at www.ctu279.org, or call the membership number at 216-482-2281.
There are many ways of being a member and getting involved, and one of the first steps is INFORMATION. We have a group of very informed folks in our organization who distill some complicated issues into a much more comprehensible form, and then give ways in which we can all contribute to the continuous struggle for the rights and dignity of us all. Our newsletter is one of the many benefits of being a member. So let’s continue sharing knowledge.
“These are some serious times that we’re livin’ in.” Peace, friends.
“An Insult to Democracy: Ohio Republicans’ Redistricting Plan Panned Soon After Release”
--Jesse Balmert, reporter for USA Today Network, Ohio Bureau, Columbus Dispatch 9/9/2021.
Ohio’s 2021 redistricting affects the legislative branches of state and federal governments. To comply with the federal Census which the U.S.Constitution mandates every ten years, state and federal legislative districts must demonstrate near equal numbers of citizens within their boundaries.
In Ohio at the state level, 33 Ohio Senate districts and 99 Ohio House districts will need to be adjusted to new population numbers. The Ohio delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives may become smaller as other states increase in population. The congressional districts will see boundary changes. The Census also allows local, state, and federal government agencies to ascertain the correct population numbers of Americans, where they live, and what they need for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Most people who reside in the U.S believe that each American citizen should have equal rights and equal power to influence government, but not everyone. Some political leaders feel they should choose as their constituents those who will blindly follow; opposite are citizens who demand to choose leaders who will do the will of the people. If a politician advocates authoritarian rule or government controlled by an elite class, then “gerrymandering” of legislative districts to ensure control of government seems certain.
At this moment in Ohio, we have an excellent example of legislative “gerrymandering” at both the state and federal levels. The Ohio political party now in legislative control continues to force a skewed political landscape and attempts to gain more power each election cycle. Here is the power breakdown of the two major Ohio political parties:
The Ohio U.S. Congressional delegation is represented by 13 Republicans and 3 Democrats. The Ohio Senate numbers 25 Republicans and 8 Democrats. Of 99 Ohio House seats, the Republicans control 64 seats. However, the political breakdown of Ohio voters is Republicans 55%, Democrats 45%. In their wisdom, Ohio voters passed two constitutional amendments in 2015 and 2018 to try to right the undemocratic gerrymandered legislative districts. The redistricting activity in Ohio has now become a struggle between “good government” folks and authoritarians.
Below are some important points from Jessie Balmert’s article on Ohio redistricting.
1. “Within less than a week to hammer out a final map for state House and Senate districts (deadline 9/15/21), Republican lawmakers presented a map that would allow the GOP to retain a veto-proof majority.”
2. “Voter-approved changes to the Ohio Constitution added guardrails to who mapmakers draw districts for the Ohio House and Senate. The commission must try to draw a map that does not primarily favor a political party, is compact and corresponds to the statewide breakdown of Democratic and Republican votes. Yet Republicans leaders say they never analyzed the partisan balance of their proposed maps for House and Senate districts. Ohio Redistricting Commission Co-chair Vernon Sykes, a Democratic senator from Akron, said he doesn’t believe them.”
3. “Republican mapmakers didn’t consider racial or demographic data when putting their maps together, said Ray DiRossi, the Senate Republicans’ finance director. He said GOP mapmakers were directed by legislative leaders not to consider racial or demographic data.”
“It’s illegal to use race in drawing districts,” Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said later. “That’s a violation of federal law.”
House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, questioned how the proposed map could comply with the Voting Rights Act without considering race. “You can actually look at race as a criteria. It just cannot be the only criteria,” said Deidra Reese with the Ohio Unity Coalition. Reese said not considering race made her feel invisible and unheard: “If you cannot use race to crack a district apart to diminish the ability of a community of color to be able to have influence, how can you not look at race?”
4. “The seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission is on a tight timeline to approve a map for those who represent residents at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. The commission accepted the GOP-made map as a working draft in a 5-2 vote along partisan lines.”
Next month the Ohio redistricting saga will continue in this space.
STRS Ohio Report
The September 16 STRS Board meeting began with a five-minute Ad Hoc Committee for Board Education & Planning meeting to confirm the agenda for November 18 seminar. The regular Board meeting was called to order at 8:06 a.m. with approval of the August Board minutes.
The Member Benefits Department was the first presentation. With claim experience being lower than projected, the plan providers refunds, and claims for non-Medicare enrollees tracking close to projected, STRS staff is suggesting a $300 premium rebate for each enrollee in November’s benefit payments. This will be voted in October after outside consultant Cheiron’s valuation report. Member Benefits also reviewed the Defined Contribution Plans.
Since inception, 13.9% of new members have selected the DC or CO plan. Their assets are $2.4 billion in nearly 25,000 accounts, some not active. Forty-six members have an account with at least $1 million dollars, up from thirteen last year.
The Legal Department presented Board Policy language that allows Board members to attend regular Board meetings by means of teleconference or videoconference as codified in ORC 3307.091 and then modified other sections of the Policy document to allow such to happen.
Executive Director Neville reported on eight areas. Some are: The ACA completed its annual verification and made no recommendations. [Great pride by STRS] For retirees 75 and older, the ongoing pandemic is contributing to an increase of approximately 15% more deaths from prior years, but Neville pointed out that it is likely to have minimal impact on the pension liabilities.
As of June 30, STRS had 216 benefit recipients who are aged 100 or older, up from 209 last year – 181 female, 35 male. Most of the centenarians are service recipients, while 53 are beneficiaries of retirees or survivors of an active member who died and two are on disability. The two oldest benefit recipients are 109. One of them retired in 1978 at $400 per month and is now receiving more than $1,500 per month. She began teaching in 1931 for $900 per year.
The retiree who has been receiving benefits the longest is 108, retired in 1969 at age 56 after 35 years of service. Her original benefit was $410 per month, increasing to $2,259 per month now. STRS has been paying her for 52 years. [The crowd yelled that she received COLAs, and we smiled.] Active members have their own type of longevity with 199 members exceeding 40 years, 13 of the group having over 50 years.
Public Participation followed with nine retirees speaking. Dan MacDonald’s Public Participation is as follows:
Good morning. I am Dan MacDonald, an STRS retiree, 38-years’ service, plus the Executive Director of NEO AFT retirees, Local 279-R. It is good to see the professor on the board. Sorry I can’t use your name. Please, sir, seek and demand information.
I have noticed that since the STRS August e-update that the communications department has reframed the general fund. In the past, the general fund has been stated at say, $94.8 billion. Starting this August, I have noticed the fund is broken down and the reporting is “Please recall only $87.5 billion of those totals are Defined Benefit assets. Approximately $2.4 billion of the total belongs to Defined Contribution Plan members and about $9.4 billion are dedicated to the STRS Health Care Program for benefit recipients. One final note on assets, these figures are all after we paid over $7.5 billion in pension benefits and retiree health care expenses” during FY 21. Re-packaging? I hope the new approach is for clarity to active and retired members, and not a new approach to sleight of hand. Also, remember that $7.5 billion spent in member benefits is why STRS exists and that $3 billion came from active contributions and their employers.
The STRS 2019 Actuarial Update had an estimated funding shortfall of about $24 billion. No breakdown. I am eagerly waiting for STRS and Cheiron to share the current funding shortfall. In 2019, the ROR had been reduced from 7.75% to 7.45%. Now the projected ROR might soon be 7%, again enlarging the fund shortfall, just as it did in 2019. One would expect a shortfall of under $8 billion. Please, Board members, don’t allow an STRS/Cheiron sleight of hand.
Finally, elected contributing Board members, a Wisconsin Legislative Council’s pension study showed that only STRS, out of 87 pension funds, demands 14% of income and receives a benefit worth 10.65%, a negative 3.35% loss of moneys. 86 other pensions receive more than they pay. Current teachers are paying a dollar for a benefit retirement worth seventy-six cents. This Board forces an active to work 35 years for a full-pension that actuarily lasts 20 years, while, of course, STRS staff get yearly merit-based pay raises, PBIs, and an OPERS pension with COLA. The Board has allowed STRS Ohio to be unique and self-serving.
Actives need their benefits enhanced and retirees need their 3% COLA restored. Thank you.
The meeting ended at 10:32 a.m. with Routine Matters, but the Annual Investment Seminar followed. August’s return was a positive 2.03%. FY2022 total return is 3.14%. Total investment assets are $97.2 billion, higher by $2.4 billion for FY2022.
There was a review of the securities lending program. There were asset class presentations for economics, fixed income, and real estate. Outside consultant Callan then presented on Liability Driven Investing, Leverage, Risk Parity, and Liquidity Management as other ways to address investments. Callan is in the midst of performing an STRS asset-liability study to be completed by March 2022.
The next Board meeting is Thursday, October 21. Outside actuarial consultant Cheiron will present and make a recommendation on STRS’s Rate of Return. All was over by 2:50 p.m.
The meeting was well-attended although I do not think there were people in the overflow room. Board members Steen and Mayerfeld were not present, but newly-elected retiree Rudy Fichtenbaum was. He asked questions and probed. He got into a push/shove with Board Chair McFee when Fichtenbaum said STRS was not a success. McFee said that was not true and wished the just-seated speaker would take longer to understand success. Fichtenbaum shoved back with a statement about the cutting of benefits to both actives and retirees and having no solution to the problems of being underfunded. McFee did not respond.
You are encouraged to attend the next meeting on October 21 at 275 E. Broad Street, Columbus, home of STRS Ohio. You also can attend virtually by registering online at www.strsoh.org between October 15-20.
FYI: the federal lawsuit submitted by Dean Dennis of Cincinnati was dismissed. He had sued STRS Ohio to get our COLA restored.
Dan MacDonald & Robert Walters
On Facebook? Join the group called “STRS Ohio Watchdogs” for more STRS news.
2021 Travel Plans
We will be taking a Christmas trip on Friday, December 3, 2021, if all goes well. We will be wearing masks when we find it appropriate. Please call Linda Opaluch at 440-842-9514 with any questions you have about the trip. Hopefully, we will be taking a joyful, fun-filled holiday trip. If the trip is cancelled for any reason, all checks will be returned.
There will be one pick-up/drop-off site at the Double Tree Hotel near Routes 480 and 77 in Independence.
Raymond D. Kikta, former 279-R President and CTU and OFT officer, passed on August 27, 2021. Send condolences to his wife Nancy Kikta at 5221 W. 25 Street, Parma, OH 44134.
B. Harrison Wycoff passed recently. Send condolences to the Harrison Wycoff family at 471 Shadowbrook Circle, Aurora, OH 44202.
Marilyn Theis passed in August 2021. Send condolences to the Theis family at 1101 Gettysburg Drive, Parma, OH 44134.
Gilda Newman passed on September 7, 2021. Send online condolences to the Newman family at www.bkbmc.com.
Carolyn Woodfork’s daughter, Maudeice “Neicy” Woodfork-Swindler, passed on September 14, 2021. Send condolences to Carolyn at 37603 Euclid Avenue, Room 225, Bed 2, Willoughby, OH 44094. Carolyn can also be reached at 440-520-7463.
Theresa Ormandy 216-741-6764
Page Last Updated: Sep 24, 2021 (13:18:00)