Originally Published on: 2010-12-15
By Evan Young
More than 170 Mehlville School District employees are eligible for a one-time early retirement incentive approved last week by the Board of Education.
The board voted 5-0 to approve the early retirement incentive, for which 171 district employees will qualify. Board member Micheal Ocello was absent from the Dec. 9 regular meeting.
While initially proposed solely for certified teachers, the human resources department decided after further research to open the early retirement incentive to all eligible Mehlville staff, Assistant Superintendent-Human Resources Lisa Counts told the board last week.
That means roughly 67 classified staff and six administrators also will qualify for the incentive, she said.
Counts also said her department found 10 additional teachers who would be eligible for early retirement, increasing the number of qualifying certified staff to 98 from 88.
Under the incentive package, eligible employees will receive 25 percent of their base salary paid in equal installments over three years.
Retirees will be required to provide five days of “service,” such as substitute teaching, each year for the three years they are paid the incentive.
The incentive will be offered from Jan. 3 through Jan. 31 and will be available to employees under contract for the current school year.
Employees must have 10 or more years of service with Mehlville and meet one of three criteria to qualify for the incentive:
• They are younger than 55 with at least 25 but less than 30 years of credit from Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri.
• Their total years of service plus their age equals 80.
• They have 30 or more years of service.
The human resources department introduced the proposal to the board Dec. 1 as a cost-saving option in light of budget projections that show the district will deplete its operating cash by 2013.
Counts said the early retirement incentive would save the district an estimated $28,000 to $30,000 per teacher the first year and provide decreased but “significant” savings the following years.
She said it was difficult to estimate the cost savings for classified staff because those employees are paid a wide range of hourly rates.
Board Secretary Larry Felton asked Counts last week, “Are there any unintended consequences that you see coming? Specifically, is there any concentration — say one curriculum area — that might be a target where there’s a lot of people qualified to retire there?”
Counts replied that her department broke down the number of employees eligible for the incentive by subject and by building.
“There are some concentrations,” she said. “I can look at science at the high school level, and we’re looking at four people. So is that a concern? Yeah, that would be a concern.”
However, she added the district has had an “abundance” of job candidates in the past two years.
Open positions in such areas as fine arts and foreign language — for which Mehlville previously has had difficulty hiring — would fill easily because other districts are making cuts to those programs, Counts contended. Plus, many Mehlville teachers carry multiple certifications and could transfer positions if the early retirement incentive caused a significant personnel gap in certain subjects, she said.