Assistance to retire
To the members of the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System:
Over 80 local retired education personnel attended the Sept. 16 meeting of the Garland County Retired Teachers Association (GCRTA) at the Garland County Library. The speaker represented the Arkansas Retired Teachers Association’s Medicare Division; GCRTA is a branch of ARTA. He presented information about the Employee Benefits Division changes in the retired school employees’ insurance policy, changes that were instituted last spring and have caused much confusion and dismay among the ranks of those who have the EBD health care.
The state is encouraging members to switch to a Medicare Advantage program and has made the new provider the default in the switch rather than the provider retirees currently have. In other words, a retired employee must “opt out” of the new plan. To keep their current policy, which most are very satisfied with, retirees must download a form during the month of October and send it back to the state in the month of November. To many retired, the word download might as well be in a foreign language. For those who cannot and do not have someone to help them, the simple task of keeping the insurance they have and are happy with will end with their being switched to the Medicare Advantage plan where they may not be able to see the providers they have seen in the past and must navigate new territory of countries and billing that will be confusing. Of course, the Advantage plan is less expensive, but it will not provide the coverage retired currently have. The list of exemptions alone in the policy book would give one pause. And the company has assured retirees they can go out of network — if they are willing to file their own claims and if those claims will be accepted.
GCRTA is offering assistance to retirees who are currently on the current insurance and wish to stay on it but need help. GCRTA members will be at the library on Oct. 14 at 9 am We will download the form for you, help you fill it out, and put it in a stamped envelope to be mailed promptly on Nov. 1. Educators and all school personnel, please be mindful of retirees who don’t have email, don’t read the paper on an iPad, and have only the letter the EBD sent in July to explain this change. Reach out to those in assisted living communities and nursing homes and help them keep what they have come to depend on as an excellent health care policy. And for all those at ATRS and the EBD and all our legislators, this process has been wrong from the moment it was introduced. We didn’t stay in education because of the great salaries, but we have benefited from the good stewardship of ATRS. Until now… shame, shame.
Past president, GCRTA
Vice President, GCRTA
A ‘rubber stamp’
I sympathize with local business owner Dragan Vicentic over the recent property tax appraisal of his business, which was evaluated at a 27.5% increase since 2020. The evaluation was done by Arkansas CAMA Technologies, which apparently also operates under the acronym ACT. An important note to all Garland County taxpayers is that ACT, or whatever name they operate under, is a private entity subcontracted by the county. At no point are you obligated to let them onto, or in, your property, for appraisal purposes. Mr. Vicentic had done his homework, correctly pointing out that an almost identically sized property less than half a mile from him, and owned by Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, had been evaluated at a much lower rate. I don’t know how long Mr. Vicentic has lived or operated in Hot Springs, but he’ll learn soon enough, that when it comes to dealing with the city, Oaklawn gets to play by different rules.
Which begs a question: Like so many other things, why is the county contracting a for-profit private enterprise to do the job we supposedly have paid county employees to do? According to the article, ACT claims that during a five-year period, property value in Garland County has increased from $8.9 billion to $12.9 billion. Which, having been hired by the county, would benefit them and the county by assessing higher values, while punishing property owners.
I was unaware until I read the article that Garland County had an “equalization board,” which apparently is the first step in disputing a property tax evaluation. It would be interesting to know what real estate and property evaluation background equalization board members Brenda Short, Rodney Bottoms, Larry Griffin, and Sean Edds have on their resumes. Based on the responses in the Sept. 17 article, I suspect they are nothing more than a rubber stamp for ACT’s evaluations.
Once they deny a property owner’s appeal, the homeowner can then take the matter to court for a judge, then appeal that to a higher court, which most homeowners won’t do. I would urge all Garland County residents to appeal their assessments if they feel, as did Mr. Vicentic, that the increases in property tax are egregious. Tie up the court system; otherwise, they are going to continue these increased evaluations on behalf of the county trying to take in more and more taxpayer funding.
Like many other recent letter writers, as a taxpayer, I don’t mind paying as long as I see my money going toward something. But the condition of our city streets, the crumbling infrastructure of our drainage systems, and the pet projects that benefit the 1% of the citizens have led me to believe that my tax dollars go toward nothing but the patronage jobs and bloated contracts to private companies like ACT that serve only the city government, not the citizens of the city.
Faces Foundation ‘thanks’
On behalf of the Faces Foundation, Dr. Daron Praetzel and Ernie Hinz would like to thank all the individuals, businesses and community organizations that supported this year’s Gowns & Boots Ball fundraising event. A special thank you to our sponsors and volunteers, without whom this record-breaking evening would not have been possible.
An event like this could not come to fruition without community involvement and we would like to thank groups and individuals including: Todd Green and Relyance Bank, Bob Edmonds, Larry Wilson, Dorothy Morris, Dr. Ethan Erwin and Smile Hot Springs, John Hoefl and Aspire Wealth, Dr. and Mrs. Earl and Suzanne Babbie, Porter Dental, Zeiser Wealth Management, Justin Nicklas and Gross Funeral Home, Tim and Mary Metcalf and McGraw Realtors, Roger Crawford and Amy Wiltrout and “Your CBD Store,” Brandon Puckett and Puckett’s Pressure Washing, Brad and Stacy Hudgens , John and Sarah Regenhardt, John Grant, Jim and Jane Randall, Carolyn Russell, Les Warren and Hot Springs Title, Kanopsic family, Dr. Ross Atkinson, Dr. David Peppers, Chris and John Hudon, Marietta Tucker, Community First Trust, Vance Dobyns, Phil Kastner and Knollwood Lodge, Josh Gossage and Saint Sebastian’s Archery Co., Dale Horn and Horn’s Outdoors, Signature Events and Double C Entertainment.
The evening was highlighted by some of the best in culinary offerings available anywhere in the state. A special thank you to the chefs and restaurants for offering the attendees an amazing selection of delicious food. Our thanks to Chef Rosario and Rosario’s Personal Chef & Catering, Chef Andrew Disney and Vault, Chef Joe and Penny Gargano and The Porterhouse, Chef Josh Garland and Best Café, Chef Dave and Amanda and Steinhaus Keller, and Brandy Clay and Sugar Momma’s Cakery.
Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to our generous sponsors for this event. Thank you to Scott Dews and First Security Bank, Anita Cabe and the Cabe Foundation for your ongoing patronage and contributions to the Foundation. The level of support from Lara Pranter of Lara’s Jewelry & Design and the Bradley Family and Crystal Ridge Distillery is incalculable and so very appreciated. The incredible support received from Suellen Hales is immeasurable and was a contributing factor to the overall record setting Gowns & Boots Ball event. Thank you, Suellen.
A well-deserved appreciation goes out to our volunteers. An event like this cannot be organized and implemented without individuals willing to transform an idea into a successful fundraising event. Because of their dedication, input, hard work and overall willingness to devote significant hours of their time to the Gowns & Boots Ball has become one of the most sought-after affairs to attend each year. Thank you to this amazing group of volunteers for sharing your “minds and backs” for the Faces Foundation and helping us “Change Lives One Face at a Time.” Thank you to Aaron Varney and Diamond Networks, Vance Dobyns, Vicki Hinz, Rollin Caristianos, Jared Zeiser, Steve Fulenwider, Sean Coakley, Sherry Vaughn, Trudy Hoskins and a special thank you to Jennifer Vaughn-Varney for her willingness to take on many of the lead responsibilities and subsequently becoming one of the main catalysts to the overall success of the event.
Thank you everyone in the community that helped make this possible.
Dr. Daron Praetzel
A lack of common sense
Mr. Navarrette, it’s obvious you are not an investigative reporter. As a detective, you would make Inspector Clouseau look like Sherlock Holmes. Do you get your facts from Twitter?
GOP used to be pro-immigrant? We still are just anti-illegal immigrant. Do you see us protesting legal immigration? Still pro-free trade, just not with countries that played us for suckers for decades. Not pro-cop? Who is protesting defunding the police? Imagine you are referring to Jan 6. Did you see the video showing one of the leaders of BLM inside the Capitol? Do you really believe he was there by himself? He brought many white members with him. Anyone can get a MAGA hat and placards. Did you see the protesters being ushered into the Capitol by the Capitol police? “Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly.” Never seen a Confederate flag at any Trump rally but, alas, a giant one at the Capitol. All of this obviously orchestrated by Pelosi and DC mayor and Capitol PD to verify Dems’ anti-Trump talking points. Not to mention the murder of an unarmed woman for absolutely no reason.
All about winning elections? How else are you able to change things? Are you saying that Dems don’t care about winning elections? You call MAGA a mob but not BLM and ANTIFA? You say you are neither a Dem, or Rep. That just means you are too gutless to pick a side.
Over 2 million illegal immigrants have crossed our border all knowing that their survival rate depends on the hardworking US taxpayers. Is this honorable? Joe Biden is just a puppet for the radical left that is tearing down our country. Please use some common sense in future columns.