District 46 offers teacher retirement incentive

PRAIRIE GROVE – In an effort to cut salary costs, District 46 is expanding a retirement incentive program.

The District 46 school board voted Tuesday to continue the program for another year and add a second option for teachers who give the district early notice that they plan on retiring.

The first option – which the district also offered the last two years – includes a flat post-retirement bonus of $5,000 plus reimbursement of up to $2,000 a year for health insurance.

The retirement incentive used to be a part of the contract with the teachers union, but it was negotiated out of last contract two years ago.

This year, teachers could opt for a flat payment of $15,000 but no insurance reimbursement.

“From the board’s perspective, it’s a cost savings,” Superintendent Lynette Zimmer said. “If a more experienced teacher is retiring and we don’t need to replace them or we can replace them with a younger teacher, it’s less expensive.”

The payouts would save the district up to $270,000 if all seven of the teachers who qualify took the first option, or $200,927 if all seven took the second option, business manager Anna Kasprzyk said.

Because the payment occurs post-retirement and does not affect a teacher’s salary, it does not inflate their pension payments.

That’s in contrast to the more common policy of increasing a teacher’s salary by six percent the three years before they retire, which some blame for exacerbating the pension crisis.

The District 46 board also approved a tentative levy totaling $10.7 million, an increase of 1.08 percent over last year. The final vote will take place at the December board meeting.

This levy represents the final year in the Taxpayer Partnership Plan resolution passed in 2011.

Under the resolution, the board agreed to reduce the tax rate by 35 cents per $100 of equalized assessed property value.

The plan was put in place to reimburse taxpayers the difference between what they thought they approved in a 2002 tax-rate referendum and what the district actually ended up receiving in how the referendum was interpreted.

NOTE TO READERS: The total savings of the retirement incentives was corrected in this story.

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