Retired teachers group: Why does TRS need downtown office space?

Sep 21, 2019 by

Many retired Texas teachers are perturbed by a decision by managers of their big public pension fund to lease office space in what’s expected to be among the most expensive buildings in Austin, according to the head of a statewide organization that represents them.

“Optics do matter,” said Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association. “When retirees are tightening their belts every year, it is not wrong to look for the most cost-efficient (office) space.”

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas — which oversees a retirement portfolio totaling about $156 billion for current and former Texas teachers, school employees and beneficiaries — has signed a lease for an estimated 102,000 square feet in a 36-story office tower currently being built on West Sixth Street. The building is named Indeed Tower after the internet job-search company that will occupy its top 10 floors. The building will be finished in 2021.

The retirement system, which signed the lease in February, will occupy floors 16, 17 and 18, and will have exclusive use of outdoor terraces on floors 16 and 18.

But the cost to the taxpayer-supported state agency isn’t known, because TRS has been successful so far in its legal effort to withhold the lease’s financial details from the American-Statesman and to keep secret how much it has agreed to pay.

Advocates for government transparency say such a basic detail about a state agency’s operations — how much it spends on office rent — is information taxpayers have a right to know. Indeed Tower will be the tallest office building downtown once finished, and local commercial real estate experts have said its rates are being marketed at well above the average for “Class A” — meaning top end — office space there.

Brian Guthrie, the retirement system’s executive director, commented on the issue during the system’s two-day board meeting that began Thursday, reiterating the agency’s position that publicly revealing the lease rate would hurt TRS competitively because it is shopping for additional space and doesn’t want other building operators to know what it’s willing to pay.

continue: Retired teachers group: Why does TRS need downtown office space? – News – Austin American-Statesman – Austin, TX

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