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18 Sep 2020
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TRS Board Discusses Health Care Sessions, Facilities, and Legislative Budget Requests

Executive Summary:

  • The TRS pension fund has recovered most of the losses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Registration is now open for the fall TRS-Care information sessions
  • TRS continues to research and assess options for long-term office space and presented four options for the board’s consideration
  • A final decision about a future headquarters to house all TRS staff will be made in December
  • TRS will submit its appropriations request to the Legislature next week and will ask for the contribution amounts that were passed via Senate Bill 12 in 2019

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees met virtually September 16 through September 18. This is the state agency’s third meeting conducted by videoconference since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The TRS December board meeting will also be held virtually December 9-11.

During the meeting, TRS reported good investment news. The pension fund has recovered much of its pre-pandemic value and is now worth approximately $155 billion. The majority of the losses occurred in the first three months of the year when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the economy. The fund’s recovery is mainly due to a sharp rebound in global equities markets from April to June.

Health Care News, Online Reservations Now Open for Fall TRS-Care Seminars

Chief Benefits Officer Barbie Pearson said TRS is receiving a high number of calls about health care. TRS is urging members to use the call back feature if they do not wish to hold while on the line. The Benefits Department staff is working after hours to meet customer service goals.

TRS will continue to provide free COVID-19 testing, telemedicine, and hospital stays for all of 2020 in addition to current TRS health plan benefits. TRS is monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the insurance plans’ finances. In the coming months, TRS will continue to rely on public health officials and work with vendors to find the best long-term solution for additional COVID-19 coverage in 2021. Learn more about your health care plan and COVID-19 here by clicking here.

Chief Health Care Officer Katrina Daniel said registrations for TRS-Care information sessions are now live. These sessions will go over the vendor transitions and new add-on features for TRS-Care and TRS-Care Medicare Advantage in January 2021. You may view the session schedule and register online here.

Webinars for TRS-Care Standard (Non-Medicare) Participants

Date and Time (CT) Register Here
Monday, Oct. 12, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 12, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Standard Webinar
Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2-4 p.m. Register for the Oct. 13, 2-4 p.m. TRS-Care Standard Webinar
Monday, Oct. 19, 2-4 p.m. Register for the Oct. 19, 2-4 p.m. TRS-Care Standard Webinar
Friday, Oct. 23, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Oct. 23, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Standard Webinar
Saturday, Oct. 24, 8-10 a.m. Register for the Oct. 24, 8-10 a.m. TRS-Care Standard Webinar
Thursday, Oct. 29, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Oct. 29, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Standard Webinar
Thursday, Nov. 5, 4-6 p.m. Register for the Nov. 5, 4-6 p.m. TRS-Care Standard Webinar
Wednesday, Nov. 11, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Nov. 11, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Standard Webinar

Webinars for TRS-Care Medicare Participants
Date and Time (CT) Register Here
Monday, Oct. 5, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 5, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Monday, Oct. 5, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Oct. 5, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Friday, Oct. 9, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 9, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Saturday, Oct. 10, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 10, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Monday, Oct. 12, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Oct. 12, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Tuesday, Oct. 13, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 13, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Thursday, Oct. 15, 4-6 p.m. Register for the Oct. 15, 4-6 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Wednesday, Oct. 21, 4-6 p.m. Register for the Oct. 21, 4-6 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Friday, Oct. 23, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 23, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 28, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Wednesday, Oct. 28, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Oct. 28, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Thursday, Oct. 29, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 29, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Friday, Oct. 30, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Oct. 30, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Monday, Nov. 2, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Nov. 2, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Monday, Nov. 2, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Nov. 2, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Wednesday, Nov. 4, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Nov. 4, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Wednesday, Nov. 4, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Nov. 4, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Thursday, Nov. 5, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Nov. 5, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Tuesday, Nov. 10, 9-11 a.m. Register for the Nov. 10, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Tuesday, Nov. 10, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Nov. 10, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar
Wednesday, Nov. 11, 1-3 p.m. Register for the Nov. 11, 1-3 p.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar

Thursday, Nov. 12, 9-11 a.m.

Register for the Nov. 12, 9-11 a.m. TRS-Care Medicare Webinar

 

TRS Long-Term Facilities Update

TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie provided an update on both current operations and long-term facilities needs for the agency to the Board of Trustees on Thursday, September 17. The TRS staff will provide their long-term facilities solution final recommendation to the board at the December meeting when a final decision will be made by the board.

Planning ahead for the future, Brian Guthrie projected that TRS staff will generally work from home 25 percent of the time and be in the office 75 percent of the time. This may not be true for all staff members but should help with a generational solution to the agency’s office space needs. Right now, about 90 percent of TRS staff are working off-site.

TRS Chief Operations and Administration Officer Andrew Roth and TRS Senior Managing Director of External Private Markets Eric Lang provided a thorough presentation about all of TRS’ current facilities and options for future office space.

Lang said the current plan for the Investment Management Division’s (IMD) office space will be to renew its lease at 816 Congress. TRS has until October 31 to sign a new lease. The original plan to lease more space at 816 Congress has been mitigated by the increased number of staff working from home. TRS is considering a five-year lease with a termination option.

Lang also discussed TRS leasing out its Indeed Tower space. He said TRS has begun “aggressively” pursuing both marketing the space and leasing the space, though accomplishing this goal has been made more difficult due to the pandemic. TRS is working with a leasing agent (Cushman and Wakefield) to identify prospective tenants to take over the space.

Roth discussed the “generational solutions” for the TRS headquarters. Roth said that TRS will need at least 300,000 square feet by 2025 even with robust work-from-home strategy. This assumes an annual 2 percent growth rate in TRS staff. He also said that TRS membership is predicted to grow to 3,750,000 by 2050, requiring more staff to meet members’ needs.

The board was presented with essentially four options for long-term facilities. One option is to remain with the status quo. This option would involve keeping the headquarters at Red River and leasing space at 816 Congress.

Another option is to renovate the Red River space and build a new building for the IMD at Red River. The projected cost to renovate the Red River space is $85 million, and the projected cost to build the IMD building would be $75 million.

A third option would be to build a new headquarters outside of the downtown Austin area. TRS is considering a number of locations for the new headquarters. The prices of the locations vary by about 5 to 10 percent. TRS projects it would take about four to five years to build the new headquarters. The headquarters would encompass all of TRS’s divisions.

A fourth option would be to build two separate buildings. One building would be for the IMD and the other building would be for the rest of the TRS staff.

They also discussed moving part of the staff into another building while they transitioned into the new headquarters. This option was described as “really complicated,” and that it had come about in the last 3-4 weeks.

“These are delicate situations,” TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie said. He said that TRS is trying to avoid showing its hand on the building negotiations. He emphasized the need for the next generational solution to include office flexibility. Guthrie criticized the current Red River office building for its lack of flexibility due to the 1970s architecture.

Board Chairman Jarvis Hollingsworth agreed, saying TRS must ensure there is enough sustainable space for employees now and in the future. The details about all headquarters options will be discussed when the board convenes in December.

TRS to Submit Legislative Appropriations Request Next Week

On September 18, Director Guthrie provided an update on TRS staff returning to the office. TRS anticipates opening up to the public at large by January 2021, following guidance of public health authorities and the Governor’s Office.

Guthrie also stated that the Sunset Commission public hearing about the review of TRS operations has been delayed until the fall and has not yet been scheduled. TRTA will be sure to provide information about this hearing to our members once we know more.

The TRS Fiscal Year (FY) 2022-23 legislative appropriations request is due to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) on September 25, 2020. Per state law, the state contributes a percentage of TRS active member payroll to the pension and TRS-Care funds. Senate Bill 12, which passed in 2019, provided for statutory increases in these pension fund contributions.

These new contribution amounts are being requested by TRS. This is good news, as it indicates the Legislature may honor the increased contribution amounts in SB 12. If the Legislature maintains the SB 12 plan, it will help keep the pension fund actuarially sound.

TRTA and the Texas Legislature have worked diligently to provide meaningful, long-term and much-needed funding improvements to the TRS pension trust fund through SB 12. TRTA supports these efforts as a way to ensure the fund’s long-term sustainability, and ultimately, to provide benefit increases to retirees.

Thank You!

Thank you for your membership to TRTA and supporting issues that affect retired Texas public school personnel. If you haven’t already, please be sure to sign up for the Inside Line and support our work by becoming a member or by renewing your membership

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14 Sep 2020
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Voter Registration Resources

As the General Election approaches, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is your one-stop shop for voting safely and finding non-partisan information on how, when, and where to cast your vote. We are eight weeks away from election day and five weeks from the start of early in-person voting.

Do you have a plan for staying safe when casting your vote this year? Now is the time to mark your calendar and make sure everything is in order. First, make sure you are registered to vote!

Voter Registration

The voter registration deadline for the November 3 election is October 5. Follow the list below from the League of Women Voters and Texas Secretary of State to find out if you are registered already or how to register if you have not yet done so. Be sure to take advantage of the service that sends you a registration form and pre-paid envelope if you do not have a printer at home.

  1. Check your voter registration status at www.votetexas.gov.
  2. Voters who moved to a new address within the same county or changed their name while remaining in the same county can update their information online.
  3. New voters or voters who moved to another county may use the League’s VOTE411.org  registration tool or print a voter registration application, fill it out, sign it, stamp it and send it via snail mail or turn it in to their county election office.
  4. Voter registration applications are available at libraries, government offices, or high schools!
  5. No printer? Fill out a voter registration application and have it mailed to you by visiting www.register2vote.org, your county voter registrar, or the Secretary of State website.

Making Your Decision

As you follow your plan to ensure your vote will count, you may also want to view resources comparing candidates for down ballot state elections. These offices are critical for TRTA’s advocacy efforts!

TRTA local units and legislative chairs are busy planning candidate forums and compiling resources for our members. The best resource for determining if a candidate understands and agrees with TRTA’s legislative agenda is hearing from the candidates themselves.

Be sure stay in touch with your local unit this month and in October so you may participate in any scheduled candidate forums. Watch your inbox for local unit and district event invitations by zoom or other teleconferencing services or for any candidate surveys that may come your way.

Mark Your Calendars!

  • October 5, 2020 — Last Day to Register to Vote
    • October 23, 2020 — Vote by mail application due
    • October 13-30, 2020 — Early Voting Period
    • November 3, 2020 • 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. — Election Day

TRTA will continue to use the Inside Line to share resources every week about how, when, and where to vote! Stay tuned.

Thank You!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA and supporting issues that affect retired Texas public school personnel. We hope all of our members are doing well and making their voting plans now! Please stay safe, and either vote by mail or make a plan to vote during the early voting period to avoid long lines and big crowds.

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08 Sep 2020
0

Voting Resources: Helping You Prepare for the General Election

As the November General Election approaches, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) will continue to provide non-partisan information about voting safely. We are only nine weeks from election day and six weeks from the beginning of in-person early voting. For those choosing to vote by mail, the process requires a few extra steps and has a different timeline.

TRTA is highlighting two excellent resources this week that will help you vote safely so you can make sure your voice is heard!

Texas Educators Vote

TRTA is a coalition partner with many other education and civic groups via Texas Educators Vote (TEV). This partnership is dedicated to motivating Texas educators to vote in every election and providing non-partisan resources to the education community, creating a culture of voting!

You can sign up to receive text message alerts from TEV as we move through the election calendar to help you stick with your voting plan.

In the 2018 elections, the education community came together with one voice by working together and following through at the polls, making education and retirement issues top priorities. This mobilization made a positive difference during the 86thLegislative Session with the passage of a school funding bill (HB 3) and a supplemental check for retirees (SB 12). Let’s keep the momentum going in 2020!

Please encourage your friends and family to check out these easy-to-use resources and make a plan to vote during the early voting period that begins October 13 and continues through October 30.

Vote by Mail Video (Provided by the League of Women Voters)

Voting by mail in Texas requires you to apply for a ballot with your county elections office. Click here for a list of county elections offices.

If you already have applied for a mail-in ballot this year, you do not need to apply again. If you have not yet applied, it is best to do so as soon as possible. Ballots will be sent out 30 to 45 days prior to the election. The vote by mail application deadline is October 23. Watch this video for a step-by-step tutorial on voting by mail in Texas.

 

Mark Your Calendars!

  • October 5, 2020 — Last Day to Register to Vote
    • October 23, 2020 — Vote by mail applications due
    • October 13-30, 2020 — Early Voting period
    • November 3, 2020 • 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. — Election Day

TRTA will continue to use the Inside Line to share resources every week about how, when, and where to vote! Stay tuned.

Thank You!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA and supporting issues that affect retired Texas public school personnel. We hope all of our members are doing well and making their voting plans now! Please stay safe, and either vote by mail or make a plan to vote during the early voting period to avoid long lines and big crowds.

Read More