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ORTA Newsletters 2020

ORTA Newsletters 2018

ORTA 2019 Status update

This brief report is designed to provide the reader with information about the Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA) as of August 2019. The report, hopefully, will provide adequate information to our members to know how ORTA operates. The information is provided in four main areas:
•    ORTA Membership
•    ORTA Financial Status
•    ORTA Success
•    ORTA Challenges

ORTA’s current leadership includes:
ORTA President – Gale Adkins (Passed away, November 2019)
ORTA Past President – Bee Lehner
ORTA President Elect – Kara Mendenhall
ORTA Liaisons

Southwest – Ralph Moon, Becky Cropper/Evelyn Yockey, one unfilled position
Northwest – Carole Wolfe, B.J. Woodruff, Bruce Hodges
Central – Ken Moody, Karen Butt, one unfilled position
Northeast – Carol Kinsey, Susan Harris, Kendra Burger
Southeast – Don Ullmann, Brenda Davis, one unfilled position
*Any ORTA member with an interest in serving our organization is encouraged to contact our offices at 614-431-7002 to learn about serving as an ORTA Liaison. 

ORTA Membership 
ORTA is a 501 C 4 (non-profit) state-wide organization composed of State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) beneficiaries. This includes all STRS members, both active and retirees. ORTA membership is also open to family members of STRS members and ‘others interested in education and the issues of retirees’. ORTA’s primary mission is to monitor, advocate for and protect the pensions of STRS retirees.
ORTA is organized into 5 regions around the state of Ohio (Northwest, Southwest, Central, Northeast, and Southeast). In each of the 88 counties in Ohio a local retired teachers association (RTA) is established. Two counties in Ohio (Stark and Cuyahoga) host two separate retired teacher organizations. In all, ORTA is comprised of 90 Local RTAs. A handful of these Local RTAs are not active at the present time.
Each Local RTA functions independently from ORTA and engages in its own local activities. Cost for ORTA membership is $30/year. The Local RTA establishes its own, independent dues structure, with most Local RTA dues established at $10/year. Lifetime memberships at both the ORTA and the Local RTA are available. Lifetime membership in ORTA costs each member $500. Currently, ORTA has 22,000 members. This number is down from ORTA’s historical high point. As ORTA members pass on, fewer people have joined to replace those members that have passed. 

ORTA Financial Overview
ORTA’s yearly budget for fiscal year 2019 is $367,466. A historical look back at ORTA’s budget provides a picture indicating an effort to reduce its expenditures. Important to note is that ORTA has not exceeded its budget in any of the last few years. For example, ORTA’s budget for 2018 was $372, 580, however, the expenses for 2018 were approximately $288, 650. We project the 2019 actual expenditures will be less than the budget as well. The point to make here is that ORTA is attempting to reduce its cost while providing the same advocacy and support as it has in the past. For comparison, the ORTA budget for 2005 was $495,000. 
A question to ask at this point is how is ORTA able to reduce its costs in such a significant manner? Several actions taken since 2017 provide the answers:

•ORTA has reduced its costs associated with salaries and benefits. ORTA is staffed by 2 full-time employees (Publications and Communications Coordinator Alissa Burton, and Administrative Assistant and Membership Coordinator Mia McLean) along with 2 part time employees (Executive Director Robin Rayfield and Finance Officer Evelyn Massey). The cost for employees is greatly reduced from years ago. 
•ORTA has reduced its costs associated with its publications budget. As many ORTA members have noticed, the ORTA quarterly is no longer mailed to each member. Although the decision to eliminate this service was difficult, the costs associated with printing and mailing the Quarterly was in the $80,000 range. Additionally, ORTA’s Publications and Communications Coordinator (Alissa Burton) is trained in this area. Previously, ORTA paid to have a company develop its communications that were mailed. The cost of this service was tremendous ($35,000 or more). Now, ORTA can do these tasks without the charges to an outside company. 
•ORTA has reorganized from its days of having District Directors and Trustees to our current model of Regional Liaisons. This move reduced the numbers of people attending meetings in Columbus, significantly. Along with this reduction in numbers of people travelling to Columbus the costs associated with these meeting is reduced.
•ORTA has partnered with Education First Credit Union in Franklin Co. This partnership provides for payment of membership dues for people that open new accounts with EFCU. Also planned is a new low interest rate credit card exclusive for ORTA members that carry the same dues payment for people. 
•Finally, ORTA has moved its office resulting in significant savings to the organization. Our new address (August 12, 2019) is: 250 East Wilson Bridge RD., Suite 150,Worthington, Ohio 43085
On the revenue side of things… ORTA collected just over $153,000 in membership dues in 2018. Currently, we are on pace to repeat this figure in 2019. ORTA’s partnership with AMBA (Association Member Benefits Advisors) provides an additional $40,000 in revenue and our co-tenant (Michael Collins Group) provides $7200 in rent fees. So, the income to ORTA is approximately $200,000 per year. With expenses ($288,000 in 2018) exceeding revenues ($200,000 in 2018) ORTA’s financial picture is not positive. However, ORTA does have investments that allow operations to continue. Each year our investment income has provided the difference between the expenditures and our revenues.

ORTA Success
ORTA has been successful in several ways this year. Listed below are some of the ‘achievements’ over the last couple of years:
•ORTA worked with its Local RTAs to host Regional Meetings in each of the five regions. Local leaders from all local chapters were invited to meet with their Liaisons (think of District Directors) and ORTA staff to work on problems and celebrate successes.  Regional meetings are also being scheduled or have already been scheduled for 2019.
•ORTA worked with STRS through its our seat on the HPA (Healthcare Pension Advocates for STRS) council to ‘hold the line’ on healthcare insurance costs for STRS retirees, both Medicare and non-Medicare recipients. 
•ORTA worked with STRS to continue the $29.90 per month subsidy currently provided by STRS to Medicare recipients.
•ORTA was present and provided comments at every STRS Board of Trustee meetings voicing concerns at issues surrounding the loss of COLA for retirees. As a result of ORTA’s (and other vocal members) efforts the STRS revised its funding policy to consider benefit enhancements for retirees at an 85% funding level as opposed to the 100% funding level that was in place. This is a significant change in direction on the part of the STRS Board of Trustees.
•ORTA was vocal at STRS meetings regarding the unfair wage increases and performance payments for STRS employees in the face of suspension of COLA for retirees. This position taken by ORTA that STRS employees should share in the sacrifice of the retirees of the STRS system was popular with retirees.
•ORTA was vocal at STRS meetings regarding the unfair wage increases and performance payments for STRS employees in the face of suspension of COLA for retirees. This position taken by ORTA that STRS employees should share in the sacrifice of the retirees of the STRS system was popular with retirees.

ORTA was successful in scheduling meetings with state legislators to inform them about the impact the loss of COLA has had on retirees. Legislators have been positive and receptive to the message that ORTA members do not want anything more than what we were promised.
•ORTA has attended all meetings of the ORSC (the legislative body that oversees all public pensions). 
  Our attendance has been recognized by several members of this important body.
•ORTA has published a monthly newsletter emailed to all ORTA members with an email address on file and posted        to the ORTA website. Additionally, ORTA published a ‘ORTA Year in Review’ in January as an effort to communicate with members that do not have the capability to receive email. 
•ORTA revised and updated its website and has assisted many local chapters in development of a local RTA website.
•ORTA successfully partnered with Education First Credit Union in Franklin Co. providing potential benefits to ORTA members and membership growth opportunities.
•ORTA leadership has visited approximately 60 of the 80 active local chapters.
•ORTA moved its office in a cost savings measure to 250 East Wilson Bridge Road, Suite 150 Worthington, Ohio 43085.  
•ORTA also has worked with the STS Members Only Facebook Group to share information and provide support for the fight to restore COLA for STRS retirees.

ORTA Challenges
Like any non-profit organization today, ORTA faces a variety of challenges. People, including retirees, are busy nowadays. Listed below are some of the most significant challenges ORTA faces:
•Membership has shrunk over the last decade. ORTA needs to find a message or purpose to rally retirees to join ORTA. With a politically polarized society finding that message is difficult. People in general do not ‘trust’ other people.  Elected officials in Ohio are overwhelmingly conservative. Our state legislators are against anything that might be considered a tax increase. This includes increasing support for retirees through STRS. As such, it is difficult to get traction for ideas to increase support for public educators. The recent budget submitted by DeWine is positive in that it increases spending on education in Ohio, but I’m not convinced that this budget will result in significant increases to Ohio’s retired teachers. ORTA, through its Executive Director, has developed a relationship with a large group of vocal people concerning the loss of COLA through the STRS Members Only Forum on Facebook. Much of what is posted on their Facebook page makes sense for STRS retirees. Although some of the rhetoric is confrontational and caustic, this group of people is making a strong case for the return of COLA. ORTA supports this position and has gained membership through this relationship. But the sad fact is that ORTA is an aged group. So many of our longtime members pass each year that it is difficult to replace them at the rate of their passing. With just over 22,000 members and a potential membership of nearly 150, 000 it seems as though ORTA could and should grow its membership. Our challenge is to find people that care and are willing to help in the fight to protect and improve our retirement!
•Leadership within ORTA is also diminishing. At every local chapter meeting the same refrain emerges. ORTA Needs leaders at the local level. People seem willing to maintain their membership with ORTA and their local chapter, however, few people are willing to step forward and provide leadership. Once seated as a local chapter president or officer, people are ‘stuck’ in that role for years and years. ORTA is working with local chapters to look at this problem from a few different perspectives. Alternatives to traditional leadership models of President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer are currently being replaced by leadership by committee. ORTA local chapters are also attempting to attract new retirees to their organizations. These new members bring new ideas about leadership and the direction of many local chapters.
•Financial challenges at ORTA are real. With decreasing membership comes decreasing revenues. Fortunately, ORTA is currently working to reduce expenditures. With income from investments our financial future is stable, however, membership growth is of great importance from a financial perspective.

The good news for ORTA is that our challenges as retirees are similar to the challenges that we have faced as educators. We are all too familiar with the ‘do more with less’ mentality that we faced as teachers and administrators. We may be older, but the fight we have left within our ranks is significant. As Executive Director at ORTA, I have pledged to do whatever I can to fulfill our mission of making retirement for teachers in Ohio a time of less worry and a time to enjoy our waning years. I hope that all ORTA members will join me in this daunting task. 

As always, thanks for your continued support of ORTA.
—Dr. Robin Rayfield

ORTA Newsletters 2019

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