Campus News

Staff Council opposes possible language change to retirement plan

At its Nov. 5 meeting, Staff Council voted to send a letter to the board of trustees for the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia opposing a possible change to the retirement plan affecting UGA faculty and staff and teachers across the state of Georgia.

The council opposes a possible change that would eliminate automatic twice-yearly cost of living adjustments given to retirees.

The proposed plan calls for the board to vote yearly on whether or not to grant the increases.

“After some initial discussion, UGA’s Staff Council feels very strongly on this issue and is not in favor of changing the wording for the biannual TRS Cost of Living Allowance,” said Stuart Ivy, council president. “We feel that those retired staff on TRS and those of us who plan to retire on TRS would not be served by changing this wording without solid reasons to do so. As of this time we have heard no significant reason to make this change.”

Drafted by Ivy, the letter said the change would negatively affect retirees and the approximately 8,100 UGA faculty and staff currently on the plan, many of whom have been paying into the plan for years.

“The 5 to 6 percent (that) educators paid into the system during their many years of public service anticipated COLA. Retirees have already paid for their COLA. The money belongs to the system participants,” Ivy wrote in the letter. The council also voted to share the letter as a template with other staff councils and senates via the University System of Georgia Staff Council list-serv, so that other units could send similar letters to the TRS board.

The letter was delivered to the board’s Atlanta offices on Nov. 12.

In place since 1969, the TRS policy currently states that the system “shall give” its members 1.5 percent cost of living increases in July and January. The proposed change would alter the policy to state the system “may give” increases.

Tommy Hills, representing the governor’s office, proposed the change at the board’s Sept. 24 meeting. The change would make the TRS plan more like other retirement boards, which vote on the cost of living increases annually. The proposal has been on the table since that meeting and will be voted on at the board’s Nov. 19 meeting.

Ralph Steuer, a banking and finance professor in the Terry College of Business, has served on the TRS board since being appointed in August by the board of regents. He said after the council meeting that he will vote against the proposed change.

He said that he’s received more correspondence than he can keep up with, including about 1,200 e-mails and letters from TRS participants, including many schoolteachers, who oppose the change. The letters call the change “a slap in the face” and say that the change would be “pulling the rug out from under” retirees.