As the Greencastle Community School Corporation continues to look at budget cuts for the 2009-10 school year, it has struck a deal with its teachers on an early retirement incentive that could bring further savings.
The school board voted 4-0 Tuesday afternoon in favor of a deal that could entice more teachers into retirement at the end of this school year.
The idea behind the agreement is that some faculty members who are eligible for retirement before age 65 do not do so with the idea of retaining family insurance coverage. A retired teacher's insurance is already paid from retirement until age 65, but families are not covered.
However, any teacher choosing to take this deal will have between now and March 31 to opt for retirement, with the school system covering the approximately $7,000 per year the additional family coverage costs. Eligible single faculty members would instead receive payments of $7,000.
In either case, the money will be drawn from the corporation's rainy day fund.
The incentive for the corporation to do so is the savings of hiring new teachers compared to the pay their veteran counterparts receive.
More importantly, though, some retirements will not be replaced, with the duties instead being absorbed by other faculty members. This possibility could help the corporation avoid or at least minimize other work force cuts.
"Could we cover them in other ways? We'd look at replacing the positions, but look at them very carefully," Superintendent Robert Green said.
Additionally, each retirement will be examined to see if the position needs to be replaced.
Green estimates the savings of hiring a new teacher to be $20,000 to $25,000 per year in the general fund. If a position is not replaced, the savings, including benefits, will be approximately $75,000.
The superintendent said 23 teachers are eligible for retirement, with three others being very close. These individuals have until March 31 to opt for retirement under this agreement, and that decision will be binding.
The date is important because reduction in force (RIF) letters, if necessary, must be sent by April 1. Green and the board members were sure to stress that they are doing everything they can to avoid any job cuts in the classroom.
"We're working our tails off the save jobs," board member Jack Berry said.
"I've seen what RIF letters do to teachers, and it's very emotional," Green said. "I don't want to see kids' instruction in the classroom to suffer because of those letters."
While the measure met with discussion and a bit of uncertainty from some board members, it ultimately passed unanimously. Board member Barbara Bryan was not present at Tuesday's special meeting.
A number of teachers were already expected to retire this year, but Green isn't sure how much the number could increase with this agreement.
"I was expecting three or four (retirements) this year, and we could see another three or four," Green said. He went on to say the number could be as high as 10.
"I think they realize it's a pretty good deal for the retirees," he said.
With further talks of budget cuts coming up at the regular March meeting, Green reported to the board of the latest figures on what the school system could receive in economic stimulus money. Based on estimates the superintendent has seen, GCSC will likely receive between $500,000 and $599,000 to go toward Title I and special education.
Green stressed, though, that any money this might save the schools in these areas should not be spent on salaries, as the funds are only for two years.
The exact amount, when it will arrive and the possibility of stimulus money for other areas all remain uncertain.
The Greencastle Community School Board will meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11 at the Miller Education Center.