Monday, October 21, 2019

Dr. Robin Rayfield - STRS Ohio Retirement Board Meeting - October 17, 2019

Greetings STRS Board of Trustees and Staff. My name is Robin Rayfield and I represent the Ohio Retired Teachers Association. I am a STRS beneficiary, having retired in 2011 after 30+ years of service.

At the September 2019 STRS Board of Trustee’s meeting I offered comments that included suggestions for ways to strengthen the financial health of the STRS Pension System and offer retirees some of the promised benefits that were taken away by actions of this board. I would like to make clearer some of these suggestions.

1. STRS could and should seek an increase in the employer contribution rate to the pension fund. The 40% increase on active educators was a significant boost to the overall financial health of our pension system. With expenditures exceeding revenues by $4 billion, it seems logical that seeking stronger revenues should be part of any plan to strengthen the pension system. The massive cuts to promised benefits implemented by the STRS Board of Trustees reduced expenditures significantly. Despite this reduction in promised benefits the pension system remains in a negative cash flow position. As I said last month ‘Simply not paying your obligations is not a financial plan’.  I have heard many times from STRS that ‘the only lever we had to pull was a reduction in COLA benefits’. Well, that is not entirely true. Certainly, reducing promised retiree benefits is one lever, but it is not the only lever. An increase in employer contributions, equal to the increase unilaterally imposed on active STRS members is a lever that, to my recollection, has not been discussed.

2. STRS should develop a revised funding policy. Components of this policy must include
  • Making progress on paying down the unfunded liabilities. Any progress is acceptable. If progress is being made the pension system is being strengthened.
  • Paying some level of the promised COLA to beneficiaries. After some payment is made towards the unfunded liabilities, a COLA, even if it is less than what was promised, must be made.
  • On rare occasions when no payment towards the unfunded liabilities can be made, a 1-year suspension of COLA could be considered.
  • I urge the STRS Board of Trustees to take these two steps to strengthen the pension system AND provide some financial relief to the STRS beneficiaries.