Just a year or two ago podcasts, webinars, tweeting, and blogs were not part of the IRTA vocabulary or in our offerings. Today we use these methods for spreading information through our website.
The IRTA website continues to evolve and offers updated information, educational materials and benefits to our members. Our website is an essential and effective tool to reach out to present and future members. We will use the website as a resource to reach out to college seniors and future educators with financial information as they attempt to make informed decisions about their pension decision when they sign their first contract.
Your board is committed to keeping IRTA relevant and important for retired and active educators in the future. Their focus on updating policies and bylaws throughout this year and next year will allow the needed flexibility in today’s association environment. New committees, or merging of committees, with new missions and responsibilities are part of the updating process. Hours of reading and discussion has already taken place and will continue until all of the updating is complete. We hope you will support the board through this entire process of revision.
There was not much change in the legislature structure this past election year. In this political environment that is not friendly to public pensions, it is very tough to push through increases, let alone stay status quo on benefits. This is the very reason IRTA needs to stay very involved in the legislature and advocating for retired educators. Future educators are the easy target because they are not involved in the process, have the knowledge, the awareness, or experience. Pushing the Defined Contribution Option bill language behind closed doors late in the legislative session through the Budget Bill is just one of the ways our legislature operates. Many legislators that voted in favor of the Budget Bill had no idea what all had been included into the 165 page document.
This summer and fall we will pursue ideas with legislators that will find ways to fund a supplemental COLA allowance reserve account to allow funding of COLA’s or increases to the 13th Checks. Medical, prescription drugs, and utility cost continue to increase along with inflation that cause stress to our limited pension amounts. We will continue to fight against plans to make Defined Contributions the default plan for new educators and to increase the age for early retirement and any other legislation that will hurt public pension plans.
Financially the IRTA budget finished in the black for the fourth year in a row and this trend looks like it is secure for the upcoming year. We continue to tighten the budget and look for cost reductions. We shopped for a new insurance package for the staff, renegotiated the office lease, and are in the process of renegotiating our contract with AMBA. The budget we hope you will adopt is lower and tighter than last year and below the 2012 budget levels. IRTA benefits and savings have doubled in the past two years making an IRTA membership a great bargain. Resources and information that are now available on the website has exploded. This however will not continue if our membership does not increase.
Regular membership has dropped for the second consecutive year although our associate memberships are up for the second year in a row. If this becomes a trend for membership, our 2012 budget levels will not be sustainable. Membership is everyone’s responsibility and the best way to get new members is to reach out and make personal contacts. Let potential members know of the increase of benefits and savings by being an IRTA member. IRTA advocacy for pensions, educational resources and materials that will continue to grow and support members in their retirement has made this the best time to be a member. Make it a personal mission and goal to recruit your former colleagues to IRTA. You will be helping the association and yourself by not having to cut services or increase dues.
The IRTF continues to support future educators, active teachers, and retired teachers in need with their three-prong approach. Ten scholarships were awarded last year and nine more this year for future educators. This year another 21 Active Grants were awarded across the state to help meet teacher needs and enhance student opportunities. A couple of Hands UP grants were awarded to retirees in need of support.
IRTF has so much potential to offer IRTA and is a jewel in the rough. I dream that the IRTF will become self-funded and be able support all their programs through investment gains and interest. By building the foundation donations and gifts program base this is a very real possibility. A donation to IRTF is tax deductible, so please seriously consider making a yearly donation to IRTF, bequeathing the foundation, or making the foundation part of your required minimum distribution disbursement each year. The IRTF potential is only limited by the amount of donations it receives each year.
Thank you for being a proud IRTA member, supporting IRTA and being a grassroots advocate for our association. You are what makes IRTA great.