By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
Cooke County —
Good news regarding benefits and pay increases for retired school personnel was featured at the Cooke County Retired School Personnel (CCRSP) meeting on Tuesday as advised by Texas Retired Teacher Association (TRTA) Committee Coordinator and Chairman Bill Barnes.
Barnes has been an advocate for benefits and pay increases for retired school personnel for several years and organized a team of 20 individuals to go to Austin to fight for the rights of school personnel across the state.
“When I first started my career, I had a fellow educator tell me that one day I would depend on my retirement check from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS),” Barnes said. “She said that while we may not earn a lot as educators, we have the promise of a good retirement. She also told me that someday I may have to protect my retirement for both myself and for those still in the classroom, and that’s what we are here to do.”
Combined efforts paid off Sunday evening as the Legislature passed SB1458 which will protect defined benefits of retired personnel, increase the state benefit contribution and will provide for a three percent pay raise for personnel that retired prior to 2005.
“We are fiscally sound now,” Barnes said. “We have over $200 million in state funds and $530 million in funds from teacher and school district contributions. State contribution is now set at a window between 6.9 percent and 7.49 percent.”
Personnel must have five years vested and the rule of 80 still applies for school personnel retirement. The rule of 80 states that personnel can retire when their age plus years of service equals 80. Full retirement is possible when individuals reach the age of 61.
In the meeting Barnes said, “This is a victory for us but we cannot let up. Next on the agenda is our fight for our health care benefits and escalating health care costs.”
In other matters during the meeting CCRSP president Patrick Hermes said that it is important to find new members to support the TRTA now even if retirement age has not been reached.
“We only have 80,000 members in TRTA but there are over 350,000 that have not yet signed up,” he said to the gathering. “I urge each of you to invite others to join. We not only working for those who have retired but also for those who will retire in the future.”
Also during the meeting Hermes announced the CCRSP officers for 2013-2014. They include: President Patrick Hermes, First Vice-president Patsy Wilson, Treasurer Peggy Voth, Secretary Patty Bowden and 2nd Vice-president Ruthie Chalmers. Hospitality chairperson Laverna Liedtke and Book Program chairperson Nell Hess were also introduced.
The CCRSP meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month from September-May at the Stanford House in Gainesville from 10:15 a.m to 12 p.m.
The next scheduled meeting is September 24.