- SFCRTA: Southern Fairfield County Retired Teachers Association
- ARTC: Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut
- TRS/TRB: Teacher Retirement System/Teacher Retirement Board
- CEA-R: Connecticut Education Association- Retired
Let’s take a look at each one!
SFCRTA- Who are we and how do we fit into the Connecticut retired educators’ landscape?
Are you curious? Let’s begin with us and then discuss the other groups/organizations who impact retired Connecticut educators. First, we are an affiliate of the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut (ARTC), but more about that later. If you look at the heading of this newsletter, you can gather information about us. We include retired public-school educators from Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We are “working to protect and improve retired teachers’ pension and health benefits.” We are also a 501(c)3 organization, which means we are tax exempt and donations made to SFCRTA are tax deductible. We are not allowed to address politics. Many of our members live in the communities we listed, but many others live in other towns in Connecticut, or spread throughout the country.
What do we do? We put out this newsletter to keep you informed about topics of interest, especially as they pertain to our pension and health insurance, the Social Security Fairness concerns for overturning the WEP/GPO policies that harm many of our members, and additional topics of interest to retirees such as fraud protection. We support the Glenn Moon Scholarship that provides financial assistance to college students who are preparing to be educators and the Henry Barnard Fund that provides assistance to retired educators in need. We maintain a website at www.SFCRTA.com where you can find additional information. Besides the newsletter, we organize meetings that take place in Southern Fairfield County, although COVID curtailed that. Our most recent gatherings have taken place at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton.
The Teachers Retirement System-TRS and the Teachers Retirement Board- TRB
The TRS is the agency that oversees the benefits for retired educations, but they do so much more. A quick look at the Contact List for the agency reveals more than 30 different lines for topics they address. Some of those topics include working with payroll departments for every school system to collect money that goes into the individual account of every educator who is currently working, maintaining accounts for educators who are not currently working, but not yet retired, overseeing post-retirement re-employment, handling purchasing service credit for eligible work outside of Connecticut, addressing disability concerns. They disburse our monthly payments and maintain monthly statements of our accounts and annual tax statements. They actively oversee our health insurance and advocate on our behalf when necessary. They make proposals to the Connecticut Legislature for changes in the regulations. They do much more than send out our monthly pension amounts.
Most helpfully, they maintain the TRB website that contains amazing information. It is truly worth some time to explore what you can learn there. Start at www.ct.gov/trb on the main page you will see links for the Most Popular Topics. You can also go to the grey box and select For Retired Teachers and come to information about the Cost-of-Living Adjustment, the Income Tax Exemption for Teacher Pensions (CT income tax), and the Health Insurance Menu. Scroll down the page to find three sections of much more information. Under Latest News you will see current issues and information. Under Online Resources, you will find links to the IRS, SSA, and other related organizations.
The middle section here is called Agency Resources and the resources are plentiful. The first link is for Board Information and Meeting Schedules. This is where you will find the dates of the TRB meetings, by clicking on the current year. Clicking on Virtual for an upcoming meeting will let you register to attend via Zoom. You will also find the agenda, minutes, and transcript for meetings. Are you interested in the history of our health insurance program and the subsidies provided? An extremely comprehensive 10-page report can be found in this middle section after selecting Other Related Reports. The entire health insurance history from the 1950’s to 2023 is available there. You can see, for example that the TRS Health Insurance Fund had to pick up the unfunded costs when the State did not meet its full obligations, something that depleted the fund’s reserves and led to the action of designating the Advantage plan as the base plan for our health insurance.
The Teachers Retirement Board is the governing group that oversees the TRS. It is comprised of Ex officio members who serve by their role in government such as the State Treasurer and Commissioner of Education. There are Public Members who were appointed by the Governor, including an additional Public Member vacancy. The TRB has four Active Teacher Representatives, elected by active teachers and has had two Retired Teacher Representatives who were elected by both active and retired teachers. There will soon be two additional Retired Teacher Representatives, elected by retired teachers, to be added to the TRB.
Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut- ARTC
The ARTC is a 501 (c) 5 non-profit organization of 6,000 members/affiliates and advocates for 38,000 retired teachers. Many CT district’s working teachers are represented by local affiliates of the NEA and CEA and others are represented by local affiliates of the AFT. The ARTC seeks to represent all retired teachers, and as an organization solely for retired teachers, it focuses its efforts on topics that are of direct concern for retired teachers. Their offices are located in Hartford and they hire lobbyists who actively monitor the Connecticut Legislature for topics that could affect retired teachers and they propose legislation on our behalf. They serve as the eyes, ears, and mouth for retired teachers in CT. They coordinate actions related to the Social Security Fairness concerns and efforts to overturn the unfair WEP/GPO provisions that harm many retired educators from Connecticut. As a 501 (c))5, donations are not tax deductible. They have a separate PAC which receives donations and which reviews and recommends candidates.
They have been responsible for important changes that have been enacted on our behalf. They introduced the legislation to add two additional Retired Teacher Representatives to the TRB. They were behind making the change in the expected rate of return from the pension fund necessary for our COLA so that it matched the fund’s expected rate of return. They worked to increase the amount of deduction on CT income tax we are allowed on money we receive from the TRS. They collect donations for the Glenn Moon Scholarship for students pursuing a career in education. They sponsor Fall and Spring Luncheon meetings held in Plantsville, CT.
You can learn more about ARTC through their website www.artct.org
Connecticut Education Association-Retired. CEA-R
The CEA-R is a division of the CEA whose legislative priorities reflect a focus on schools and working teachers. According to their website, here are their priorities:
- Protect and improve pensions and healthcare benefits.
- Strengthen Social Security and Medicare.
- Improve public education.
- Participate in national and regional conferences and seminars.
- Monitor the actions of the legislature and the State Teachers’ Retirement Board
CEA-R has been very active in promoting CEA-R members for election to the TRB. They sponsor a Fall Luncheon meeting in Plantsville, CT. The Fairfield County chapter has sometimes held luncheon meetings in Danbury, CT. In order to learn about CEA-Retired, you go to the main website, www.cea.org and under the Members heading, scroll down to select CEA-Retired. The first week of October, for the first time, CEA-R started an online newsletter.
And you? Where do you belong? Some of us, this writer included, belong to all three organizations. My experience has been that SFCRTA provides information. ARTC provides information and action, actively working for positive changes on our behalf. CEA-R has had a page of information in the CEA Newsletter.
- SFCRTA- $15 per year, January-December
- ARTC- $50 per year, September through August
- CEA-R- $60 per year, September through August
There are lifetime membership options for ARTC and CEA-R, but not for SFCRTA.
And in other news
From the Connecticut Legislature- Recently, Connecticut transferred more than $1.3 billion to pay down its long-term pension debt. Since the legislature enacted the state’s “fiscal guardrails” in 2017, more than $7 billion in excess contributions captured from volatile revenue sources have been made to pay down pension debt, resulting in far-reaching savings for Connecticut taxpayers. Future generations will save more than $600 million per year over the next 25 years while supporting retirement benefits for teachers, state troopers, nurses, correction officers and more. While enormous progress has been made in addressing our long- term liabilities, more work remains. But what we have achieved is benefitting taxpayers today and long into the future.
The health insurance plan Open Enrollment period runs from October 9 to November 17, 2023. Information is available at the TRB website. If you do not wish to make a change to your current plan, no action is required.
If you haven’t already voted for the new Retired Teacher Representatives to the TRB, please do so before November 2. ARTC has vetted the candidates and recommends Ed Vargas, Jr. and Rita MacDougald-Campbell as candidates who pledge to encourage transparency for how important decisions are made by the TRB.
SFCRTA Membership Renewal Information
Our membership goes from – January to December. If you have not yet joined, click here for our membership renewal information for 2024. Remember: Numbers matter and we still face many important issues regarding our pension and health insurance.