Mark McDermott

Teachers accept early retirement

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by Mark McDermott

Sixteen of the 70 teachers offered a year’s salary as an incentive to retire early have accepted. Tuesday night the Redondo Beach Unified School District school board unanimously approved the retirement package.

Teachers at the board meeting gave a round of applause after the board voted to implement the program.

“Do I sense there are some retirees in the audience?” asked board member Carl Clark.

“It’s better than a gold watch,” said board member Todd Loewenstein. “A lot better than a gold watch.”

The special early retirement program, which will be administered by Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS), will save the district $411,000 this year and a projected $1.7 million over five years. According to a PARS report, the average age of the teachers who accepted early retirement is 63.2 years and the average salary is $78,737.

Teachers enrolling in the program have the option of receiving the equivalent of a year’s salary – supplementing their existing retirement – over a five year period, a ten year period, or longer.

Half of the positions being vacated will not be replaced, and those replaced will be newer, lower-salaried teachers, thereby generating savings for the district.

RBUSD chief business official Janet Redella said that she will propose funding the early retirement program through the special reserves known as the “Aviation funds,” roughly $6 million in special reserves that originated in the sale of the former Aviation High School. Such reserves are generally restricted to capital outlays, but the state has loosened restrictions during the current budget crisis for “one-time” costs. Using those funds to essentially prepay the PARS program costs would free a corresponding amount in the district’s general fund, which is generally used to pay salaries and benefits.

Redella said now is the time to tap into such “rainy day” reserves.

“It’s not just raining, it’s snowing,” she said. “We are in a blizzard. With the situation at the state level, it might be a good opportunity to free up some of those funds that ordinarily we would not be able to touch.”

Prepayment would generate greater immediate savings – up to $676,000, according to an estimate. Savings from retirement program will help meet a projected $3.6 million shortfall the district faces due to cuts to state educational funding.

Superintendent Steven Keller, in an interview after the meeting, said that the district had hoped for greater participation in the program. But he said that the savings generated would nonetheless be helpful in solving the district’s budget woes.

“We were hoping for a few more folks to jump in,” Keller said. “However, the folks who did jump in made it so the numbers turned out positive and clearly generate an immediate and long-term savings for the school district. As much as we are unhappy to see savvy, veteran teachers retire, in this climate there is certainly a carrot for them and a carrot for the school district in that we will not be hiring behind all these retirements.” ER

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