A vote that looked to be a formality turned into a topic of much debate at Friday's special meeting of the Greencastle Community School Board.
For the third straight year, the board approved an early retirement incentive package for teachers, but not without extensive discussion and a narrow 3-2 vote.
Superintendent Bob Green recommended a two-year compensation package for retiring certified staff members worth $10,000 each year. Even with the expenditures coming from the rainy day fund, the move is expected to save the corporation's general fund when less experienced teachers fill the positions.
"It's an effort to save money in the general fund," Green said.
While the plan has not changed that much in the last two years, the problem arose when board member Kelly Lewis asked if Green was eligible for the compensation.
Although Green is leaving the corporation in July to take a superintendent position in Collinsville, Ill., he is going to retire as a teacher in Indiana. His wife Jill, a pre-school teacher at Deer Meadow, is also retiring.
"I wasn't even thinking about that," Green said.
Board President Bruce Stinebrickner expressed concerns about a potential conflict of interest, since Green had recommended the move.
"Are we comfortable with the issues of the superintendent and his spouse (receiving the compensation)?" Stinebrickner asked.
"I'm not. (Taxpayers) are going to see $40,000 leaving the corporation," board member Todd Sutherlin said. "I'm blindsided by this. I thought (Green) was resigning. I didn't think he was retiring."
Green decided to rescind his recommendation, but Assistant Superintendent Dawn Puckett said she was comfortable recommending it to the board. After board member Mike Dean moved for approval and Lewis seconded it, discussion continued.
Other concerns were over exactly how much the corporation would save. Green presented numbers to the board that the difference in teacher salary and FICA would save the general fund an estimated $24,498 per teacher in the first year, with the savings decreasing each year to $16,534.
While the savings are tempered by the $10,000 hit to the rainy day fund in each of the first two years, the corporation would still come out ahead.
"In my opinion, if it only saved $10, it's worth it. And it will save a lot more than that," Dean said.
There was additional talk of delaying the vote until the board's April 13 meeting. The nearly two weeks would give board members longer to consider the issue.
Additionally, it would provide an opportunity to consult the corporation attorney about the legality of possibly excluding the Greens.
"I don't think Bob should be penalized," Lewis said. "If (Deer Meadow Principal) Gwen Morris were to retire, we'd give this to her."
For Dean and fellow board member Monica Fennell, more time was not the answer.
"As I think it through, I'm getting more concerned about delaying this," Fennell said.
"If someone's going to retire now, we only have a few months until August," Dean added.
The move passed by a 3-2 margin with Stinebrickner and Sutherlin dissenting.
Green said six certified staff members are currently slated to retire, and he knows of four others who may join them in light of the early retirement package.
Teachers must be at least 55 years old and have served 10 years or more to qualify for retirement.