Working for You!
Since 1972, advocating for the rights and value of South Dakota state employees.
Category: Member

On Working Out of Sioux Falls for the Interim Session

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
One of the items discussed during the 2013 House of Delegates was the need to expand the SDSEO's reach and presence. The decision was made during HOD to open an office in Sioux Falls during the interim session, with an evaluation of the results of the move to be made during the 2014 HOD. I will continue to work in Pierre for South Dakota Retirement System meetings, Board of Finance meetings, interim legislative hearings, and the entire legislative session.

The driving forces for opening an office in Sioux Falls are the need to push recruiting and chapter activity; working from Sioux Falls allows for me to make working with the SDSEO easier, as we have chapters in Brookings, Mitchell, Vermillion, Yankton, Springfield, Watertown, Sioux Falls, and Madison that have languished without access to the executive director. The hope is that more involvement with the executive director will lead to more recruiting and chapter activity, which are the lifeblood of the SDSEO. The fact of the matter is that the SDSEO needs to start adding members and getting more active, or it will fold.

A couple more benefits of working from Sioux Falls in the interim: 1) The SDSEO will still have its main office in Pierre, and the combined cost of the Pierre and Sioux Falls offices will actually be less than the cost of the current Pierre office. 2) Greater access to legislators. There are 12 districts west of Pierre, with state employee concentrations in just 5 of those. There are 23 districts east of Pierre, with state employee concentrations in 18 of them. It's much easier to arrange meetings with legislators when distance and time are not so large. 3) As with reason #2, more media outreach possible from Sioux Falls. 4) Reduced travel costs. The cost of one round-trip to almost anywhere East River is slightly less than the cost of one month's office rent in Sioux Falls.
CategoriesExecutive Board, House of Delegates, Legislative, Member, SDSEO Chapter, SDSEO Office

SDSEO District 24 Legislator Foum: Packed With State Employees?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The SDSEO held its first ever forum for an entire district's current legislators last night. It was for District 24, which is plum packed with state government employees. Senator Jeff Monroe and Reps. Mary Duvall and Tim Rounds were in attendance and eager to hear from state employees. Did they have people to interact with? There were a few state government employees who showed up to interact with the folks who make the laws that govern the employment of state employees, but not many. Considering it was a rainy night with lots of events canceled, and considering we blitzed the radio airwaves and the daily newspaper with advertising, and considering the event was specifically for state employees and SDSEO members, the turnout was disappointing. However, those who attended had great ideas, and those are the ideas we'll move forward with. We'll have another forum in Pierre, and we hope for better attendance. Here's the Pierre Capital Journal story on the event: Legislators Discuss Issues With State Employees.
CategoriesLegislative, Media, Meetings, Member, SDSEO Chapter, SDSEO Office

Accomplishments For You

Thursday, May 2, 2013
A common question for an organization such as the SDSEO is "What do you do?" It's a question with a lot of answers: the SDSEO lobbies for, works for, discovers for, researches for, and exists for the South Dakota state government employee. But what does all of that "mean"? Well, it means everything we accomplish, we accomplish for you. Take a look at our "Accomplishments For You" flyer to really see what that has meant for the last 41 years. You'll see that every major benefit for state government employees has been either begun or has been extensively lobbied by the SDSEO.

Make positive change and become an SDSEO member today. We need your membership to help make your career better. Membership information is here.
CategoriesBoard of Regents, Bureau of Human Resources, Member

Working for you

Friday, April 19, 2013
Took a couple calls and Facebook messages this Wednesday. One retiree called about issues related mostly to current state government employees. I was taken by how much this person still cares about what current state employees must endure: 1) A human resources system that many employees feel does not work for or care about them. 2) The absence of an official, impartial, legislatively sanctioned body that can independently evaluate and recommend disciplinary and grievance procedures from the front of an issue to its back. 3) The perception that the deck is stacked against the average state employee.

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with the retiree, maybe 45-50 minutes, with most of my time spent listening (while I also researched some of the issues). The retiree asked what could be done about the various things mentioned. I gave the following advice, and it's the same advice I have for all SDSEO members: 1) Contact the SDSEO about the issue(s), so that we may begin to do research and formulate a plan to explore or deal with the issue. Most often, if you have an issue or question related to your employment as a South Dakota public servant, I can have your answer(s) and your solution(s) within moments. 2) The first step determines the second. If you contact the SDSEO first, you'll have a better second step.

I also spent quite a bit of time that day Facebook messaging an SDSEO member about issues related to the ACES evaluation system, specifically as it relates to compensation when the new fiscal year begins on July 1. Over several hours, I made phone calls, checked state websites for relevant info, messaged PDFs and webpage links, and really gave the issue a good going over. By the end of the day, the member thanked me for my work and time and stated that I'd for sure earned that person's $5 in dues for the pay period. I was happy and thankful, but it got me to thinking. Was I working for that member's $5 in dues alone, or was I working on behalf of all SDSEO members and their dues that day? I like to think that I was working for everybody, but on a one-on-one basis. The knowledge and information I gained from helping that member goes into my bag of tricks, and it's a bag that gets opened at the will of an SDSEO member. Have you recruited a new member or joined?
CategoriesBenefits, Bureau of Human Resources, Grievance, Member, Movement to Job Worth, Retirees, Salary, Termination

How did you become an SDSEO'er?

Thursday, April 18, 2013
The SDSEO posted a poll question on our Facebook site today. The question was, "How did you get your SDSEO membership form to become an SDSEO member?" If you're a member, please head over to Facebook and take part in the poll. There are a couple "stock" answers, but you can add your own. The reason the question is there is to stimulate members into thinking about how they became a member, to think back to what made them commit to supporting themselves and their fellow state government employees. Ultimately, we'd like you to take the same action that led you to become an SDSEO member, to reach out to your fellow state employee before or after work or while at lunch, and encourage them to join you as an SDSEO member.

If you're an SDSEO member looking for a new member form, or if you're not yet a member but want to join, the membership form is here.
CategoriesFacebook, Member

Super-Snow Half-Day Pay

Thursday, April 11, 2013
Thankfully, with a winter storm for the ages hammering practically the entire state, South Dakota saw fit to close offices at noon yesterday. But what does it mean as far as compensation is concerned? How will the pay and service be figured?

On the Bureau of Human Resources side, non-salaried employees who could not report to work before noon and reported in about it will not actually have to use their leave: their leave request, up to four hours, for the after-noon work, will be swapped with administrative leave. The leave requests could have been made under any of the categories of leave, from personal to annual to sick. However, salaried employees who called in will have to use their leave, and eight hours of it. Note that this applies to most employees at most departments and agencies; there are some variations, depending on position and employer. If for some reason an employee was scheduled in advance to have yesterday or part of yesterday off, such as for vacation or an appointment, that employee will have to use their leave as they had requested. There are also many potential variations in how offices were actually operating early Tuesday, with some perhaps never even opening, so I suppose BHR will be pretty busy dealing with all of that.

For employees at Board of Regents institutions, it will be pretty much left to the individual institutions. I'd expect them to follow the Bureau of Human Resources policies and procedures, though.
CategoriesBoard of Regents, Bureau of Human Resources, Member, Salary

SDRS to meet April 3-4, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The South Dakota Retirement System board of directors will meet in Pierre on April 3 and April 4. That's a Wednesday and a Thursday. The agenda for the meeting is here (sheet 1) and here (sheet 2). Looks like quite a bit of reviewing of 2013 and preparing for 2014. Lots of important items, including the effective rate of interest for FY 2014 and quite a few "state of the system" topics. SDSEO executive director Eric Ollila will attend the meetings.
CategoriesMeetings, Member, South Dakota Retirement System

Changes to State Health Plan Coming

Monday, March 25, 2013
The state health plan will see changes in FY 2014. FY 2014 begins July 1, 2013. The South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources proposed to the 2013 Legislature the following changes, all of which were accepted and approved as part of the budgeting process:
  • 5% dependent premium increase for all plans.
    • The FY 2013 rates for active employees in 2013 are here. Apply 5% to the applicable rate with a dependent to find the FY 2014 rate, which begins on July 1. Example: Employee and One Child - FY 2013 rate is $41.35 semimonthly; FY 2014 is $43.42 semimonthly; that's a 5% increase of $2.07 semimonthly.
  • 12% retiree premium increase.
    • The FY 2013 rates for retirees are here. Apply 12% to the applicable rate to find the FY 2014 rate.
  • 5% COBRA increase.
  • Co-pays removed on $500 and $1,000 deductible plans, except the ER co-pay, which remains.

The employee cost of these changes is $5.6 million; that's the amount of increase that users of the state health plan will pay over their cost in FY 2013. The $5.6 million comes from an additional $1.1 million in premiums, and $4.5 million in member cost sharing.

The state's costs are increasing as well. FY 2014 will see the state invest an additional $12.3 million in the health plan. The Legislature, in Appropriations, decided against a proposed wellness plan that would have cost an additional $8.1 million. That wellness plan would have alleviated the cost born by employees with the premium and cost-sharing changes because the bulk of the funds would have gone to employees who successfully completed quarterly wellness initiatives. There will be exploration and discussion of wellness initiatives over the summer.

CategoriesAppropriations Committee, Benefits, Bureau of Human Resources, Health, Legislative, Lifetime Members, Member

SDRS state employee representative review of Oct. 18 SDRS meeting

Thursday, October 18, 2012

After all was said and done very little changed at the South Dakota Retirement System meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Benefits were left untouched and will probably remain that way this year. The day was spent trying to get a clear picture of where the system stands. In a system that has so many variables, it is difficult to determine if we currently have enough invested and are collecting enough contributions to sustain the system into perpetuity. Assumptions such as investment returns, retirement ages, final average salaries, mortality rates and many others have been set. The problem is we are trying to determine what will happen over the next 30 to 40 years. If our estimates miss even slightly when it is multiplied by the size of our system, the numbers become huge.

In the past, SDRS had reserves that could be tapped when assumptions were not met, but after several years of tough economic conditions, those reserves are gone. This makes our assumption more important. In the end, the investment returns, final average salary and the numerous items we give an “educated guess” to will either be higher or lower than what we assumed. If we are wrong in a good direction, such as investment returns at 8% rather than 7.5%, we will have more money to pay benefits. But if we are wrong the other way, we better have contingency plans in place to handle the shortfall.

Over the next year and possibly longer we will try to formalize these contingency plans. We also will be looking at each benefit to see if we have any benefits that would be considered “over generous” or “inequitable”. It is possible that there could be changes in the system to help build more of a comfort level or conservatism into the system. This process should be tracked by all SDRS members, and this is a good point to add our opinions about the direction the system should go. We can have a lot more influence at the early stages of the process than later, after other ideas have built momentum.

In the current political climate of our nation, pension systems such as SDRS are under attack. If we cannot make this system work within our current resources, the system will go away. SDRS is viewed as a model system on the national scene. We have shown that a pension system run wisely can work and provide a good value to its members and to taxpayers. We must continue to be proactive to maintain the system and to provide the best possible benefit to our members.

- Eric Stroeder, State Employee Representative, SDRS Board of Trustees

CategoriesMeetings, Member, South Dakota Retirement System

The Black Hills Knowledge Network seeks to engage

Thursday, September 20, 2012
I attended a conference in Pierre today put on by the Black Hills Knowledge Network. It was primarily a presentation and some small-group discussion. There weren't many attendees in number, but those that were there have influence within the state. Business association representatives were there, as was a member of Gov. Daugaard's office, and there were a few non-profit executive directors around. The primary presentation was about creating a statewide online system for distributing information and data; the presentation was called "Empowering & Engaging Communities with Information and Data." What kind of information and data? Well, I see links to such things as local news articles, local blogs, local calendars, census data, other governmental data, and data from the Rural Life and Census Data Center (I used to do quite a bit of editing and publishing work for them, back when I was a state employee). In my mind's eye, I see a Google-type system, but linking only to data and information pertinent to the state's citizens, and that information could be parsed down to the municipality level. If the system ultimately gets up and running, which I hope it will, I think it will be great for the state.
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