The Board of Education hopes to consult with a retired state official about an early retirement proposal for teachers that may or may not save the school district money.
Board members discussed the “Ohio Plan,” at the request of teacher union representatives, at a school board meeting Thursday, but they found it so complicated they were unable to make a decision.
Last month, the board authorized School Supt. Janet Robinson to offer an early retirement incentive for teachers who have enough years of service to receive state teacher pension benefits. If they retired early, the board offered to extend their health insurance benefits for five years.
The board is looking for any way to save money going into what might turn out to be a very difficult budget year. Not only have they run out of obvious ways to economize, but this is also the first year that voters will be able to vote for the school budget separately from the town budget, according to a newly passed charter revision, and nobody knows what the voters might do.
Robinson told the board Thursday that union representatives counter-offered the Ohio Plan, in which the school district would pay half the cost for teachers to buy extra years of pension benefits in order to retire early.
She said she sought help from Bill Sudol, a retired employee of the state Teachers Retirement Board, who provided an analysis of how the incentive might affect the school budget.
Sudol’s analysis was full of uncertainties, however. The Ohio Plan would save money if some teachers used it, but in other instances the cost of the incentive equals or exceeds the savings.
The plan requires the district to offer it to all teachers over age 50 and with at least 20 years of service. It does not give the school board the option to offer it only to those teachers who would save the board money.
“The board needs to make some decisions about this,” said Robinson, reminding them that their budget meetings begin in a few weeks.
Board member Cody McCubbin asked why they couldn’t just have layoffs, but he answered his own question — the reason is the layoffs would affect only the lower-paid teachers, thus limiting the savings.
The district has a policy to hire teachers with a minimum of five years of experience and master’s degrees. That way the school board knows it is hiring only good teachers.
Board member John Vourus suggested hiring first-year teachers instead, to replace teachers who took the Ohio Plan incentive, which would reap more in savings. But Robinson said that way the board couldn’t be sure it was getting the most talented educators.
That was when the discussion ended and Chairman Debbie Leidlein asked Robinson to ask Sudol to participate in a conference call with several board members hoping it might clear up some of the uncertainty and help them make a decision, she said.