Instead of an urgently needed adjustment of the cost of living for retired teachers, the legislature has decided to offer TRS retirees a one-time additional performance test, which is generally known as “13. Exam “is designated. Brian Guthrie, executive director of TRS, told the board of directors that retirees should receive the 13th check in mid to late January. This week the agency started notifying relevant retirees who will receive the check.
After the board of directors unanimously voted to buy a new headquarters outside of downtown Austin at its September meeting, TRS staff reported to the board that they are in the late stages of negotiating the purchase. TRS plans to transfer selected business areas to the new facility from summer 2023. TRS has calculated that the move will save the agency up to $ 15 million over the next 20 years.
The board also discussed the opening of its first regional office in El Paso. TRS said the purpose of this office is to better serve members who live several hours away from Austin and need personal help from TRS staff. Opening similar TRS regional offices in other areas across the state will be considered if the El Paso office proves successful. The office is expected to start looking after members in spring 2022.
TRS employees reported on the recent difficulties in hiring and retaining employees. Andrew Roth, TRS Chief Operations and Administrative Officer, cited two common reasons for employees leaving: wages and lifestyle. TRS struggled to offer its employees competitive salaries compared to private employers in the Austin area. Regarding employee lifestyle, TRS has conducted in-house research to find out which personnel positions could effectively work from home in order to provide a more flexible work environment for employees. While TRS has shown an overall improvement in its ability to respond to complaints and requests from members over the past few months, the shrinking workforce at TRS coupled with the sheer number of teacher retirements the agency is currently handling has been a cause for concern.
After difficult quarters at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the TRS pension fund has largely recovered. The positive trends in pension seen earlier in the year with the economy recovering have slowed, but TRS investment staff said this was nothing to be concerned about. TRS has repeatedly stated before lawmakers that the agency could afford to adjust the cost of living for TRS members, but lawmakers have taken no action on this issue. Some lawmakers have publicly stated that the 2023 meeting would be their preferred time to propose an increase.