After continued discussion over the past several months regarding offering incentives for early retirement, the Wright City R-II School Board voted not to pursue the issue further citing legal and tax considerations.
“This is something that had been noted highly on the staff input aspect of our budget discussion process, so we put it out there as something for the board to talk about,” Superintendent Chris Gaines explained during the May 17 board meeting.
Gaines said the board earlier had reached a consensus that a retirement plan likely was not actionable for this current budget year, but that it might be something to consider for next year pending further investigation.
Gaines said he attended a session on early separation agreements at the state school business officials conference in April that shed new light on the issue.
“From a time line standpoint, we learned we definitely couldn’t do anything this year, and there are lots of legal reasons not to do it at all,” Gaines reported. “There also was information from experts that organizations typically don’t see the savings they think they will experience.”
Gaines said he learned that plan documents must be prepared, requiring additional legal fees which would further reduce any potential savings.
“There also is a lot of uncertainty about how employees would be taxed, and whether the district would have to make taxing contributions on the employees’ behalf,” said Gaines.
“After the information we received at the conference, our salary committee is hesitant to enter the early separation agreement waters,” Gaines told the board.
The board discussed whether to hold off until the fall to discuss implementing a plan or “be done with it” for the foreseeable future.
“It doesn’t seem like it would be a real savings to the school, so I would be in favor of not going forward,” said Board Secretary Corri Ruge.
Vice President Alice Klem said she wanted to leave it open for later discussion while recognizing the difficult legal ramifications.
“I’ve been confused that on one hand we say we’re trying to retain our highly qualified teachers, but then we’re talking about giving them an incentive to leave,” member Laura Marsh commented.
She said that the state of next year’s budget should factor into the decision to revisit the issue in the fall or let it go entirely.
Treasurer Mary Groeper countered that if legal issues are at the heart of the issue, these are not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
“I don’t have a problem revisiting, other than we keep pushing this off on our administrators and it’s taking up their time,” Groeper said. “If the legal situation is not going to change, why keep revisiting it?”
Klem made a motion to table the item until October, which was seconded by Marsh. The motion failed 2-3.
Austin Jones, Mary Groeper and Corri Ruge voted no, resulting in the matter being closed. Joseph Butterfield was absent.