TUARA Fall / Winter 2016 Newsletter

Mildred Switzer nominated by TUARA for Area District 10 Director 

At TUARA’s Fall Membership Meeting, Mildred Switzer was nominated and voted upon as a candidate for the office of District 10 Director of the Alabama Education Retirees Association (AERA). The District 10 Director position which has a two-year term represents retirees from all Alabama higher education campuses. Currently there are seven active units: AL A & M University Retiree Association, Athens State University Retiree Association, Auburn Retiree Association, Jacksonville State University Retiree Association, University of AL Birmingham Retirees Association, University of AL Huntsville Retiree Association, and TUARA. Mildred is being opposed by Dr. Tom Vocino from AURA. Ballots for all AERA positions will be mailed to all current dues-paying members no later than January 6, 2017. For your convenience, a return envelope will be included. Return you Ballot by February 3, 2017 at the close of business (4 p.m.) and VOTE for Mildred Switzer as your representative as District 10 Director.

Request for Nomination for Judy Bonner Award 

At the Fall, General Membership Meeting held on October 21st, TUARA announced the establishment of the JUDY BONNER AWARD, by presenting Dr. Judy Bonner a Proclamation in her honor. The JUDY BONNER AWARD is to be presented annually to an individual who exemplifies the leadership and service characteristics set forth during Dr. Bonner’s tenure at the University of Alabama. The completed nomination form, shown below, and a letter of support is due by March 1, 2017. The letter should include leadership attributes and various service activities. In addition, this letter of support should provide a summarizing statement qualifying why this individual is being nominated for the JUDY BONNER AWARD. The first JUDY BONNER AWARD receipt will be announced at our Spring Membership Meeting – President’s Luncheon. 

FINANCIAL REPORT – Maintaining a Balance

2016 has been a year of changes for the financial management of TUARA. A major change was to establish a fiscal year operating budget to align with the calendar year membership dues, January 1 – December 31. This realignment makes it easier to track expenses to assure moneys spent is moneys collected and budgeted within the same period.

Several changes have been the result of reduced income. A decrease in membership resulted in a reduction of $2,000 in projected income from dues from the previous year. Another $2,000 loss in supplemental money from bus trips to out-of-town football games also went away. The scarcity of football tickets for away games decreased demand for this service. Therefore it was no longer feasible to run a bus to out-of-town football games. These losses resulted in a $4,000 reduction in TUARA’s operating budget.

Budget cuts were made with the objective of reducing costs without reducing member events. Two major expenses, printing and postage for the newsletter and event notices, were substantially reduced by utilizing email, a telephone calling service, and posting notices on our UA web site and Facebook account. TUARA dues have remained at $20 per year since the inception of our organization. With a general membership vote at our Spring 2016 meeting, membership dues have been increased to $25 per calendar year. These changes have brought our budget in line with our income.

The following is a summary of the financial condition of TUARA as on December 1, 2016.

Total income for 2016:                         $5,940

Total 2016 expenses to date:                $3,873

Checking account balance:                  $5,436 (includes 2017 dues)

Savings account balance:                     $5,436

Total Cash on Hand:                            $10,622

2017 membership dues paid to date: $3,515

After paying for events during December, expenses for 2016 are anticipated to be approximately $600 less than income.

Submitted by Marvin McKinley, Treasurer

Building a Village to Support “Aging in Place”

Who among us do not want to continue to stay in our own homes, remain independent and keep connected to the wider community as we age? At the first meeting of TUARA’s reinstated small meeting series, “Ironing Out the Wrinkles”, Susan Benke most convincingly presented what seems to be a viable option, Tuscaloosa Village for Aging in Place. Susan, spokesperson for the local group, introduced the Village concept, explained its history, answered questions and created a great deal of support and interest among TUARA members in attendance.

The first Village began in Boston in 2002. The residents in the Beacon Hill neighborhood formed a non-profit group to offer access to services such as transportation, home repairs, home visits and social activities for a reasonable annual fee. Since then each successive organization has tailored its services to meet the needs of its members widening its scope to include social and cultural opportunities to cultivate friendships among members. While all Village organizations are run by its members, some have paid employees to manage requests and coordinate volunteer services. There are currently over 200 Village organizations in the US, Canada and Australia.

The idea for creating a Village in Tuscaloosa was introduced in November, 2015. With a growing list of 100+ potential members, the vision is to create a Tuscaloosa-area non-profit Village patterned after the groups currently in Alabama in Huntsville and Auburn. For example, the Auburn group, Village Friends Village Values, Inc., offers volunteer services such as check-in phone calls, transportation to medical appointments, delivery of groceries, basic home maintenance, yard care and technology assistance with plans to develop a list of approved fee-based local service providers to refer to its members. These services are available for an annual fee of approximately $600. Currently the Tuscaloosa Village building group is making “get-acquainted visits” to local agencies who can inform potential Village partners, working on a preliminary committee structure that will serve as an organizing body, and constructing and distributing a short interest survey to provide data upon which to build the Villages amenities. For questions about the Village concept, call 205-349-4046 or email village.2be@gmail.com.

Transition to United Healthcare Begins 

(Reprinted in part from Alabama School Journal, The Official Publication of the Alabama Education Association, Volume 133, Number 14, November 21, 2016)

JUDY BONNER AWARD

January 2017 is fast approaching. In less than 60 days, retirees will transition to the UnitedHealthcare® Group Medicare Advantage (PPO) plan. This transition will affect PEEHIP Medicare eligible retirees and Medicare-eligible dependents covered on retiree contracts.

In an effort to make the transition as smooth as possible, PEEHIP has a few suggestions for those affected.

Do not drop Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. Retirees must continue to be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B in order to be eligible for this plan. If you do not have both Part A and Part B, you will not be eligible for the new Medicare Advantage plan and you will not be enrolled in the plan. This means that you will not have hospital medical or prescription drug coverage with PEEHIP. You also must continue to pay your monthly Part B premium to Social Security.

Retirees should receive a new ID card and welcome packet in early December. Start using the UnitedHealthcare® ID card on January 1, 2017, for all medical and prescription drug services. You will no longer need to use the red, white, and blue Medicare card after December 31, 2016.

Call UnitedHealthcare® if your doctor has questions about the UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Advantage plan or is unsure about accepting the plan. They will be happy to take your doctor’s information and then contact the doctor to discuss the plan.

If you have questions about your UnitedHealthcare® coverage or need additional cards, call UnitedHealthcare® at 877-298-2341 and a customer Service Representative will be happy to help you. This number will also be printed on the back of your new ID card.

Why Your TUARA Membership is Important 

Have you asked the questions? “Why am I a member of TUARA?” – “What’s in it for me?”
The NUMBER 1 reason to belong to TUARA is: TUARA works to maintain, protect, and enrich retiree benefits and programs for its members both on campus and with the State Legislature.
On Campus:
• TUARA advocates on behalf of retirees by maintaining a presence on campus committees to monitor proposed policy changes and provide advice on how such changes impact retirees
• TUARA fosters a strong working relationship with The University of Alabama & The UA Office of the President as an officially recognized campus affiliate
With the State Legislature:
• TUARA partners with the Alabama Education Retirees Association (AERA) to represent and protect retiree fiscal and well-being benefits controlled by the AL legislature
• TUARA communicates retiree benefit updates such as health and prescription plan changes, income adjustments and more on a regular basis

Then there are convivial reasons for being a member of TUARA:
• TUARA offers a variety of informational, educational, and social programs for awareness, understanding and sometimes just for fun
• TUARA provides networking with colleagues and friends to maintain, refresh, and develop professional relationships and personal friendships
• TUARA publishes an informative newsletter semi-annually at www.hr.ua.edu/tuara that recaps and projects news and activities
• TUARA promotes and monitors member services contributed within the community.
• Beginning this year, TUARA will annually honor an outstanding retiree for their service with the Judy Bonner Award
TUARA needs your membership and TUARA needs your friends and colleague to join as well. TUARA membership categories include:
• Retired University of Alabama employees and their spouses, widows, and widowers
• Persons presently employed by The University of Alabama retiring in five years or less, and their spouses
• Associate membership is also available to non-education state retirees

If you have not already done so, return the membership application today. Not sure about your membership status; email tuara.ua@gmail.com for confirmation.

Membership Update: Welcome New Members (2017) 

Benjamin & Pam Adams
Jimmie & Catherine Blansett
David Boles
Gina Johnson
Molly Lawrence
Joseph & Yasmin Neggers
Courtney Oglesby
Michael Webb

In Memoriam 

This memoriam is dedicated to honoring the memories of members who have died, and to express our sympathy to their families. Please notify Betty Wedgeworth at tuara.ua@gmail.com if you know names of deceased who should be added to the list.
Margaret Corriher
Norman Singer

Campus Parking News 

Anyone who enters the University of AL campus will agree, the view is transforming at a rapid pace. There are many more students resulting in more faculty and staff, new and larger buildings, and even new and different roadways. While it is exciting to participate in growth, it is the subsequent changes to which we must adapt that are the problem. For many retirees, the issue of parking is of paramount importance – where to park and more importantly how far must we walk to that meeting, event, or class. TUARA is appreciative that Parking Services keeps us updated, listens to our request, and is willing to provide assistance when there is a justifiable need. One of the most active and hard-working committees on campus reports the following activity:
• At TUARA’s request, access to information on parking for retirees on the UA campus has been improved on the Parking Services website. Information on parking regulations on campus for retirees and for obtaining hangtags is prominently located at the top of the Parking Services web page. (http://bamaparking.ua.edu/regulations/#Retired) or (http://bamaparking.ua.edu/permits/)
• Parking Services is working on a GPS to help those not familiar with campus to locate buildings and parking areas.
• Pay hubs at the Bus Parking hub and at the Recreation Center seem to be working. The first 30 minutes are free; 1 hour is $1; over 1 hour is $2. Parking Services is considering placing them in other locations.
Recap of Remarks presented by Chris D’Esposito, Director, Transportations Services, at TUARA Fall Membership Meeting, October 20th.
• Tutwiler Parking Deck: The Tutwiler Parking Deck will begin construction January 2017 with some initial utility work. This parking deck will be constructed directly behind Tutwiler Residential Hall. Construction will take between 14-18 months. During this period of construction persons that have this residential parking designation will be asked to utilize the large Tutwiler Parking lot to the west of the construction site or an alternate Orange Residential parking area.
• Capstone Parking Deck: The Capstone Parking Deck will begin construction May 2017. This parking deck will be constructed in the area which currently is referred to as the Moody East Surface Lot. Construction will take between 12-14 months. During this period of construction persons that had the Moody East Surface Lot designation will be asked to utilize an alternative Southeast Commuter Parking area. This would either be the large Coleman Coliseum Surface Lot or the newer Coleman Expansion Surface lot. The Coleman Expansion Surface Lot is the parking area directly East of Sewell-Thomas Baseball Stadium.

Submitted by Betty Wedgeworth, TUARA representative, Parking Services Committee

Dr. Robert Witt: Let’s Stand Together to Protect Education Funding 

(Reprinted from Alabama School Journal, The Official Publication of the Alabama Education Association, Volume 133, Number 14, November 21, 2016)

I have been blessed to call Alabama home for more than 13 years, first as a campus president and then as chancellor of The University of Alabama System. The growth and success of The University of Alabama (UA), UAB, and UAH prove to me that we can achieve unprecedented heights when we invest in solutions.

Research by some of the most respected minds in the country into problems that plague both our great state and our nation – poverty, poor health, incarceration, substance abuse, and many others – reveals one consistent truth: education has the greatest potential to address these societal ills.

Unfortunately, education is now under attack in Alabama. As a result, although my time as chancellor of the UA System ended on September 1, my efforts to support education in our state at all levels – from Pre-K to Ph.D. – are ramping up to the next level.

I am now dedicating a large portion of my time and energy to the work of Alabama Unites for Education. Alabama Unites is the grassroots advocacy group that was launched last winter with a single, critical objective: to protect the Education Trust Fund (ETF). Alabama Unites is a unique coalition involving The University of Alabama System, the state’s other universities, the K-12 System under the leadership of Superintendent Michael Sentence, and the Community College System under the leadership of Interim Chancellor Jimmy Baker.

Created in the mid-1920s and approved by a statewide vote of the people, the Education Trust Fund was established to ensure there would be a dedicated stream of tax revenues used solely for the support of public education. Likewise, dollars in the General Fund would pay for prisons, social services, roads, government operations and the like.

As we all know, the Great Recession took a heavy toll on the state’s ability to adequately fund both education and social services. In fact, since 2008, state funding for higher education in Alabama has dropped more than every other state in the country except for Louisiana – meaning that an increasing percentage of the costs of educating students in our colleges and universities are borne by students and their families, driving up student debt. Our K-12 classrooms have suffered greatly as well, as those of us with children and grandchildren are made aware when we purchase and equip them with basic necessities because their schools cannot afford to provide them.

However, rather than attempting to raise the state’s investment in our children to pre-recession levels, some politicians have attempted to raid the ETF and take already scarce dollars. In 2015, the Education Trust Fund came under serious attack. First, $80 million in education funding was taken from the ETF and diverted to the General Fund. Emboldened, some elected officials threatened to raid education funding further – and even eliminate the Education Trust Fund altogether by collapsing it into the General Fund. We knew the impact on students, teachers, families and the economy would be catastrophic for generations to come, which led to the creation of Alabama Unites for Education.

As we approach its first anniversary, Alabama Unites is proving its value. The voices of our members have been heard loud and clear in Montgomery with a persuasive and unified message about the need to protect the Education Trust Fund from further raids. Subsequently, we were pleased with passage of the education budget for fiscal 2017, which contains the biggest increase since 2008. We are grateful to elected officials who stood tall in support of Alabama’s young people and we believe this signals a positive shift in momentum.

Our mission is to continue growing the grassroots network of supporters who share a commitment to protect education funding. I am looking forward to this new chapter in my career and invite you to join me in this effort by visiting the Alabama Unites for Education website for more information: www.alabamaunites.org.

Robert E. Witt First Generation Book Scholarship – Good Works Continue

TUARA is happy to report that the Robert E. Witt First Generation Book Scholarship Fund is well, healthy and continuing to help and assist eligible and worthy students. For the 2016 Fall semester four outstanding sophomores were each awarded $250 scholarships. Congratulations to these students:
• Yu Zheng, an Accounting major from Oxford
• Ashley Stinson, a Human Development and Family Studies major from Centre
• Burton Malone, a Music Performance major from Tuscumbia
• Elizabeth Epperson, a Human Development and Family Studies major from Montevallo

Please help continue providing this assistance for UA students by making a contribution to the Robert E. Witt First Generation Book Scholarship Fund. Make your check payable to The University of Alabama with “Robert E. Witt Book Scholarship” in the memo line. Mail your donation to: TUARA, Box 861493, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-0013. You will receive a tax-deductible statement from the University. Your contribution will be greatly appreciated by TUARA. – Submitted by Dianne Teague