03 Oct 2014

Texas Retired Teachers Foundation: Connecting Generations of Educators!

Support the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation by viewing and sharing this video!
The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) preserves the legacies of public school personal through its charitable giving. Jamie Larson, a retired band teacher, was inspired to become TRTF Board Trustee after seeing his former band hall custodian receiving food at a food bank. TRTF assists retirees in need through its “Helping Hand” program. You can donate to TRTF online here!

With the new school year underway, many members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) have been attending local unit meetings and preparing for the upcoming legislative session. The fall is also the time of year that we gather together for good meals and great company.

In the spirit of the season, the TRTA Board of Directors chooses November as the month to honor its charitable partner, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF). TRTF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded and maintained by Texas public education retirees.

TRTA members dedicated their entire lives to education. Many of our children and now grandchildren are now following in our footsteps!

This great education legacy carries on through the Foundation’s four charitable programs, each with a unique focus that allows us to help educators of the past, present and future: “A Helping Hand,” Classroom Assistance Grants, Student Scholarships and the Legacy Campaign. TRTF is truly connecting generations of educators!

The next issue of The VOICE is dedicated to the Foundation and our members’ donations to these programs. Your donations to TRTF have provided more than $170,000 to public school teachers, students, and retirees since 2008. That includes supporting 67 public school teachers, 74 future educators, and 64 retirees!

For the very first time, The VOICE will also include the Foundation’s Annual Appeal Letter! Using The VOICE for our annual appeal saves thousands of dollars in postage, meaning thousands more can be dedicated to our charitable programs!

We hope you will enjoy the third quarter issue of The VOICE and consider making a tax-deductible donation to TRTF. If you do not want to wait to show your support, you may donate online here or call us at 1.800.880.1650 to donate by credit card over the phone.

Look forward to a new Foundation video every week throughout the month of October! Please continue showing your support for our vital charitable programs by sharing these videos now and throughout the months of October and November!

Thank You
Thank you for being a member of TRTA and for supporting the Foundation’s charitable endeavors. The Foundation’s very existence is dependent upon YOU. If 2,000 TRTA members donate $50 each, we can raise $100,000!

If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates, including our month-long series of Foundation videos!

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25 Sep 2014

Senate Finance Committee Meets to Discuss TRS Funding

The Senate Finance Committee met at the Capitol building in Austin yesterday to consider the current status and funding needs of several state agencies and programs for the next biennium.

The committee heard invited testimony from the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), which provided presentations about major cost drivers for the state budget. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), one of the state’s largest agencies, was included in this presentation. The LBB discussed not only funding for the TRS pension fund, but also the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program.

When the LBB informed the Senate Finance Committee of the impending $1 billion TRS-Care budget shortfall, an audible gasp was heard from among the committee members.

The not-so-secret funding crisis has been looming for years and can no longer be avoided. If nothing is done during the coming legislative session to resolve this funding issue, TRS-Care participants could see astronomical premium increases as high as 130 percent! TRS retirees live on stagnant incomes, with only one permanent increase in their pensions since 2001 (which did not apply to all 300,000+ annuitants).

In their appropriations request made earlier this year to the LBB, TRS asked for a supplemental appropriation of nearly $900,000,000. This is in addition to the 1 percent of active teacher payroll that is commonly provided to TRS-Care during each fiscal year, which was also requested.

Patti Featherston of the LBB testified that the pension fund is healthy. Finance Committee member Senator Joan Huffman pointed out the fund is actuarially sound according to state law. TRS has a funding period of 28 years. Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 1458 in 2013, the funding period was never. TRS has 1.4 million members, which includes active and retired educators. In 2013, they paid out $8.1 billion in annuity payments to retirees.

Featherston’s comments about TRS-Care and its projected shortfall prompted some Senators to express concern. Senator Judith Zaffirini said retirees in her area are worried about TRS-Care funding depletion, and asked Featherston what options aside from an infusion of funds are being considered to address its solvency.

Featherston stated the LBB is reviewing several potential options, as is TRS, which is in the process of finalizing a sustainability study about the program. The study is slated for release in October.

We reviewed several of the options that we being considered by TRS over the summer. Please see the links below to read our reviews of each option.

Senator Robert Nichols said most school districts don’t pay into Social Security, leaving many retirees who live on their TRS annuity alone in a “pretty tough” position. Senator Charles Schwertner requested additional information about what factors are driving up the cost of the health care program after hearing from the LBB that the medical cost trend is 7 percent.

Though TRTA was not able to testify in yesterday’s hearing, several local area members of TRTA attended to show their support for the organization and their fellow retirees.

While no decisions were made in the meeting, it served as one of the first steps our legislators are taking in determining how to handle the TRS-Care funding crisis.

Though session is still several months away, we must begin contacting our Representatives and Senators NOW and telling them how vital TRS-Care is to us! To learn more about contacting your legislators, click here.

Thank You!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates!

TRS-Care Sustainability Study: TRTA Review, Summer 2014
Read more about Option 1: Pre-funding the long-term liability.
Read more about Option 2: Funding on a pay-as-you-go basis
Read more about Option 3: Funding for 10-year solvency
Read more about Option 4: Retirees pay full cost of optional coverage
Read more about Option 5: Mandatory participation in the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans
Read the follow-up to Option 5
Read more about Option 6: Defined contribution–Establish a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) for non-Medicare retirees
Read more about Options 7, 8 and 9

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08 Sep 2014

Special Election for Senate District 28 Tomorrow!

Tomorrow (September 9) is the special election to fill the seat being vacated by Senator Robert Duncan in Senate District 28. Many TRTA members are quite familiar with Senator Duncan and his work to improve and protect retirement benefits for Texas public educators. Last session, Senator Duncan authored Senate Bill 1458, which provided the first permanent cost-of-living increase for 200,000 retirees since 2001.

Members, we cannot stress enough how important it is that you vote in this election if you live in Senate District 28 (includes areas such as Lubbock, San Angelo, Snyder and Plainview). Make a plan now to vote tomorrow if you did not vote early!

Consider carpooling with your fellow retirees or friends and family members. Please remember that tomorrow, you must vote at your assigned precinct. Contact your County Elections Office if you do not know where your polling location is.

Several candidates are vying to fill Duncan’s seat. They are: Jodey Arrington, Republican; E.M. Garza, Republican; Delwin Jones, Republican; Kerry Douglas McKennon, Libertarian; Charles Perry, Republican; and Greg Wortham, Democrat.

Many of our members have requested that we provide contact information for the Senate District 28 candidates. If you live in SD 28, please consider contacting the candidates and asking them questions about their support of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) defined benefit plan and the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program.

Several local units in Senate District 28 have reached out to the candidates already and asked them to respond to surveys about TRS and TRS-Care. If you have questions about the candidates and are unable to get in touch with their campaign office staff, please reach out to your local unit leaders. You can find contact information for local units on our web page (TRTA Near You).

If a candidate asks you for more information, feel free to provide them with the TRS-Care Fact Sheet found in the most recent issue of The VOICE or have them contact TRTA at info@trta.orgor 1.800.880.1650.

Candidate Contact Information (candidates are listed in alphabetical order):

Jodey Arrington
4407 13th Street
Lubbock, Texas 79416

E. M. Garza
303 North 7th Street
Wolfforth, Texas 79382

Delwin Jones
2129 54th Street
Lubbock, Texas 79412

Kerry Douglas McKennon
2101 Avenue D
Petersburg, Texas 79250

Charles Perry
4007 109th Street
Lubbock, Texas 79432

Greg Wortham
311 E. Avenue C
Sweetwater, Texas 79556

Thank You and New Video!

TRTA local units are meeting now! Find a local unit near you if you want to get involved at the grassroots level and start protecting TRS-Care. Learn more about our 259 local units by visiting this link.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee has been speaking at numerous local events and will continue to do so throughout the fall. Don’t miss your chance to hear from him!

Just last week, Tim attended the Waco-McLennan County RTA meeting and provided a rousing speech to the 112 attendees. Hear what Tim had to say by watching this video.

Feel free to share the video with your fellow retirees and with active educators, who will be impacted by any changes made the program upon their retirement.

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! Remember, you are a valued member of our organization, and your vote is valuable! Use your power and vote!

If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates!

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