Retired teachers seek more input on pensionsBEMIDJI — With the ranks of retired teachers swelling, retirees want more input into state pension decisions.
By: Brad Swenson, Bemidji Pioneer, Worthington Daily Globe
BEMIDJI — With the ranks of retired teachers swelling, retirees want more input into state pension decisions.
The Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement, meeting Wednesday in Bemidji, heard Sen. Mary Olson’s bill to add an additional teacher retiree to the Minnesota Teachers Retirement Association which oversees $18 billion in pension funds.
The issue was one of a half-dozen state employee pension issues the panel discussed in its first-ever meeting outside the State Capitol.
The eight-member TRA Board of Trustees has three members appointed by state government, and four members to represent more than 76,000 active teachers and one member to represent more than 48,000 retired teachers receiving benefits.
“We feel there should be more representation” for retirees, Charles Hellie, president of the Retired Educators Association of Minnesota, testified to the panel. “In 10 to 15 years, there will be one retiree for each active member.”
Charles Hutchins, retired teacher and member of REAM and Education Minnesota Retired, presented a study he conducted showing that nearly 22,000 of the state’s 77,700 teachers are age 50 or older.
“In the 1970s, one retiree represented 5,000 retired teachers, now it’s one retiree for 50,000 retired teachers,” Hutchins said. “We don’t think asking for one more retiree would create a train wreck. The board has done an excellent job representing taxpayers … but retirees consider the trustee their representative.”
Both retired teacher organizations asked Olson, DFL-Bemidji, and Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, to carry the bill to add a retiree to the TRA Board, giving it two retiree representatives to four active member representatives.
Laurie Fiori Hacking, executive director of the TRA Board of Trustees, said the board is remaining neutral on the proposed legislation, and asked only if it is passed by the 2010 Legislature that elections for the additional retiree member be held in 2013, when retirees will vote on the current retiree spot.
Olson said another reason for the request is this year’s merger of pension funds from the former Post Retirement Investment Fund into TRA, with TRA overseeing the combined fund. The Post Fund was a separate fund of retiree assets which offered annual post-retirement adjustments.
The steep investment losses of earlier this decade put the Post Fund into a deficit condition, so the 2008 Legislature abolished the fund, moving its assets and liabilities on June 30 to the TRA Fund, which until then managed just pension funds for active teachers.
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