This is the first executive director update of the fiscal year. ATRS has now had time for the dust to settle on the previous fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2012, to provide some current information on ATRS benefits, retirement statistics, and other operational information. Very importantly, the ATRS Board of Trustees and ATRS staff welcome Kathy Clayton, a school teacher in the Malvern School District, as the newest ATRS Trustee. Ms. Clayton was appointed to the ATRS Board on August 6, 2012, in the certified position #4 on the ATRS Board.
The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time in the public schools and also at ATRS. Facebook is full of pictures of kids taken proud parents sending their kids to school on the first day. All school employees are excited to deliver quality educational opportunities through a new school year. ATRS is excited for the opportunity to provide quality retirement benefits to all school employees. The first day of school provides ATRS the opportunity to enroll thousands of new ATRS members into the official membership rolls at ATRS. Over time, many of the new ATRS members from this year will ultimately be rewarded after a career in education with quality benefits to maintain a great quality of life in retirement.
Two of the too often overlooked retirement benefits provided by ATRS are highlighted in this update. The first is the ATRS disability benefit. Unfortunately, some ATRS members become ill or are injured in such a way that their career in public education is cut short. Any ATRS member with five years of service credit is entitled to an ATRS disability benefit that is paid monthly as long as the member is qualified medically, submits a disability application before the deadline, and provides the necessary supporting documents. ATRS disability payments are paid for the rest of the member's life unless the member improves or returns to work for an ATRS covered employer. The attached update explains disability retirement in detail plus a second attachment on disability (Disability FAQs) is designed to help members better understand the ATRS disability program. If you know a school employee who has a medical problem or injury, please be sure to share this update with them.
A second important special benefit of ATRS is survivor benefits. Many current school employees who have five or more years of service credit in ATRS and also have minor children have a special benefit in place for their minor children should tragedy strike and a member die and leave minor children. The attached executive director update provides a lot of detail on the survivor benefit. The short version is that ATRS will pay 20% of a member's best one-year salary each surviving minor child (up to 3 children or 60%) of a active ATRS member with five or more years of service credit. If a member has more than three minor children, the minor children equally share the maximum survivor benefit of 60% of the best one-year salary. The minor children of an ATRS member qualified for the survivor benefit with a best one-year salary of $50,000 will each receive $10,000 per year, up to three children. The children can draw this benefit up to age 23 if the children remain in full time a educational program. The survivors also receive the annual 3% simple COLA (cost of living adjustment) once they have been receiving benefits for a full fiscal year. You will not likely find a survivor benefit anywhere that is better than the one the ATRS Board has developed for ATRS members
I have also included some statistics on retirement numbers for the past year along with other trending statistics concerning ATRS retirements and benefit payments. For those who like statistics, I'm sure you will find interesting information in the attachments. ATRS is having the expected number of retirements, benefit payments, and other standard member behavior outcomes. Women are still living longer than men, on average, and ATRS members tend to live a long time. On the investment side, the attachment on investments says what the markets have already told us that the 2011-2012 fiscal year was not the best for the public markets. ATRS should show a small loss for last fiscal year. During the first 50 days of the current fiscal year, the ATRS trust fund is up about 2.5%. Hopefully, this good news will continue during the current fiscal year as ATRS continues to move through the fallout of the economic downturn that started in 2008. The good news is that the ATRS Board has a well diversified investment portfolio that should continue to provide strong returns as the economy improves.
If you have questions or need more information, please feel free to call me on my direct line at (501) 682-1820, my cell (501) 318-5998, or email me at
. In addition, if you use Twitter, you can follow events at ATRS and issues of interest by finding the Twitter ID of ATRS or find George Hopkins in the Twitter directory. Also remember that you can go to the ATRS website at www.artrs.gov
and sign up to get updates from ATRS automatically on your public or private email address, or both. The update attached to this email is also available on the ATRS website under executive director updates. Over 3,100 people have already signed up to receive this type of email update and other ATRS information via this email list. Feel free to sign up for updates on the ATRS website.