TRS Board Meets, Discusses Operations During Pandemic

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees met July 15-17. The board met virtually again due to the ongoing pandemic. During the meetings, the board discussed the pension plan, long-term facilities planning, the transition back into the office environment, and future meeting plans.

The TRS pension fund has experienced a tumultuous year due to the pandemic. In the first quarter alone, the pension fund’s value decreased by 8.3 percent, which equates to a decrease of approximately $9 billion. Retirees pension checks are secure and won’t experience any fluctuation. However, for any future potential cost-of-living increases, it will be important for the Texas Legislature to continue to invest in TRS. Last session, the Legislature increased its funding for the TRS pension plan by $1.344 billion.

Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) members have expressed that the number one priority may be to protect the funding plan that was secured last session. TRTA is currently working on its legislative platform and will be going full force during the legislative session to protect and improve retiree benefits such as the pension plan and TRS-Care.

TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie led the discussion on the long-term facilities planning. He said that TRS “wants to be working out of buildings that we own by 2025.”

In the meantime, short-term decisions still need to be considered for where to house the TRS Investment Management Division (IMD), and the lease at 816 Congress where IMD resides currently has not yet been renewed due to economic changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mentioning the TRS space at Lot 71, more commonly known to our members as the Indeed Tower, Guthrie said that leasing activity across downtown Austin has been impacted by the pandemic and the current economic environment.

Guthrie said the TRS staff will use the remainder of 2020 to study what exactly space is needed and how TRS is going to get there. This includes the paused work at the Mueller development, which was considered to become the new TRS headquarters. With 25 percent of employees potentially working from home long-term, the current headquarters at Red River may still be a viable, generational space solution for TRS.

The TRS board is not expected to make any decisions about long-term headquarters until December 2020.

Guthrie also discussed the schedule for TRS attending a Sunset Committee hearing to review its evaluation. He said the most likely date for this to occur would be Nov. 12-13. The Sunset review, which was released in April, is available here.

Additionally, Guthrie discussed working with TRTA to attend the fall District conferences. He said if the meetings are held virtually, then he and other staff members will be much more likely to attend. The TRTA Board of Directors voted on Tuesday to cancel all in-person meetings through Dec. 31, 2020.

The next TRS board meeting is set for Sept. 16-18 and will be held virtually too. It’s going to be a very busy fall for TRS as the next Texas legislative session approaches. TRTA will be sure to keep you updated. 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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