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Retirees in Action

   Jim Carr  A message from PEF Retiree President Jim Carr

 

You get a lot for $3 per month

We have had some questions from members of PEF Retirees about our dues increase this summer and we want to make sure everyone, including future members, understands what necessitated the increase from $1.50 per month to $3 per month.

With that in mind, I am sharing with you here the letter we sent to our members in August with all of the compelling reasons we made this choice.

Dear PEF Retiree Member:  

Deciding to raise retiree dues was not a decision easily made by this Retiree Executive Board. 

We are all on fixed incomes and an increase is never an easy one to make. The board members have grappled with raising dues for at least three years or more and have put it off for as long as we could. After much discussion and a review of our upcoming budget projections, we had no choice but to ask for an increase.

How much the dues should be raised was another tough issue. The thought was possibly to do it incrementally. The Comptroller’s Office and PEF’s MIS Department need at least eight weeks to program the changes.  

We also knew that we would need lead time to get a letter out to members with information on why and when this dues increase would occur and, again, this mailing is a large cost. Each time we make any change it would require an additional mailing at a large cost to the retiree funds. Mailing and printing costs have increased. To send one mailing with an envelope and from 1-4 inserts, printing and postage is $1.20 per member per mailing. With 19,144 members, one mailing is $22,972. Our constitution states we will pay for up to four mailings a year to members to keep them informed. That cost alone is over $90,000. 

Again, no one likes any increase, but currently at $1.50 a month per member we could not continue to function without making changes to the services our members depend upon.  

Our dues will now increase to $3.00 per month per member. It seemed irresponsible to ask for $0.75 now and then in a year have to come back and ask for a further $0.75 per person, and go through the Comptroller’s and MIS changes again and spend additional funds to send a second letter when those funds could be used to fund the organization and provide the services members have come to expect from us.

Many have said email is a better way to communicate. Unfortunately our members do not agree. We have only limited email addresses from members and, when asked, they either are reluctant, or refuse, to give them to us. They still prefer U.S. Mail as the choice method of receiving information. Social media is another suggestion, but again a large portion of our members do not use social media, computers, or smart phone to communicate and prefer U.S. Mail. We have an obligation to get information out to all our members and U.S. Mail is currently their preferred way to insure they receive our communications.  

The cost of holding Retiree Executive Board meetings, the cost of attending the PEF Convention, and the Retiree Leadership Conferences were addressed. We have shortened retiree board meetings to two days instead of three and issued stipends for meals to cut costs. In addition, we have reduced attendance at the convention by one day to save funds. 

It was agreed that Bob Harms, our Retiree Representative, to the PEF Executive Board, appointed with the approval of the PEF Retiree Executive Board, would request the retiree membership dues increase be placed on the August 2019 PEF Executive Board agenda, since approval from the PEF Executive Board is needed to effectuate any dues increase. It was further agreed that a letter/website posting be drafted which would be sent to the members to inform them of the dues increase.  

Based on these findings a retiree dues increase was recommended. The last dues increase was in 2007. The cost of dues for other retiree organizations was also noted.

Presently the only sources of funding for the Retiree Office are through membership dues and dental and vision administration fees. If for any reason the retirees were no longer able to offer a dental and vision program there would be a considerable decrease in funding. The retiree office operates by taking money out of the benefits account each year to balance the budget. Office staff {currently two staff members for the entire 19,000+ members) is an expense. While the retirees do have investment accounts that money is not liquid and easily accessible.to pay day-to-day expenses. 

One of the constitutional duties that the chapter presidents, as members of the Retiree Executive Board, have is to set the dues structure of PEF Retirees. We do this by carefully preparing a budget each year and only spending the approved funds from that budget. We take this duty very seriously and would not be raising dues if there was any other way to continue to provide services to our members at our current rate of dues. Depending on a reserve account is not the correct way to do this. Overall, the Retiree Office is spending more than it is taking in and cannot just rely on our benefit funds to pay our bills. It would not be the fiscally prudent way to run this organization. 

Another important issue retiree members may misunderstand is that once retired we are no longer active contract members of PEF. We have one vote on retiree issues at regular PEF Executive Board meetings, but no standing in contract negotiations. We can make our interests and needs known to PEF, which is willing to lobby on our behalf, but we are not part of negotiated contracts. Taylor law in NY prevents PEF from negotiating for retiree members.

We had no voice in our increased co-pays for our insurance. The governor made the decision to give us what six other unions negotiated. We had only one voice on the active PEF Executive Board when discontinuation of printing The Communicator was addressed. The PEF Executive Board overwhelmingly voted to stop printed copies, again to save the mailing costs to active members. It is an active PEF communication and they voted to stop it. Our members confuse “active retirees” in the PEF retiree organization with the active contract members of PEF who are still employed by NYS. 

Being a dues paying member of the retiree organization is a choice only you can make. It is still a bargain, and you can still get many benefits for the $36.00 per year.

As a PEF Retirees member you are able to purchase any of our tickets, gift cards, and attend special events.

You may continue to use the PEF Retiree Dental, Vision Program and Hearing Programs, MBP’s auto/home insurance discounts, and the MBP Voluntary Legal Service Plan.

You may also continue to utilize any of the regional discounts offered by many of our approved vendors.

You can also attend local chapter meetings to get and give information to your elected officers. 

If you presently pay your membership dues by automatic pension deduction, then no further action is required and the new monthly dues rate of $3.00 will start effective January 2020.  

For those members who are invoiced and pay their membership dues by check, the revised rates will be implemented when they receive their monthly invoice. 

 


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