Urbana to discuss retirement incentive program for teachers
URBANA — The Urbana school board at its Tuesday meeting is expected to extend the deadline for its early-retirement incentive program for teachers and may discuss the program's future.
The board meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Jean F. Burkholder Administrative Service Center, 205 N. Race St., U.
The board will vote on giving teachers currently eligible for its early-retirement incentive until Feb. 1 of next year to enroll and will also discuss ending the incentive after that.
Board President John Dimit said there will be no action on the latter Tuesday and that the board will decide whether to end the incentive "in due time."
The board also discussed the issues at its Dec. 4 study session.
The incentive allows eligible teachers to give the school district three years' notice of their retirement. In return, they receive a 6 percent salary increase for each of those three years.
To be eligible, teachers would need to be 60 years old by the date of retirement, have worked 20 years continuously in the Urbana school district or worked 35 years continuously in any school district.
Dimit said that when the school district was negotiating the contract it approved with its teachers' union this summer, the district's negotiating team indicated the incentive would end after Dec. 31.
Urbana Education Association President Tracy Welch said that was her understanding, as well.
But she said she's spoken to other members of the teachers' negotiating team, and they thought the school district would just look into ending the incentive.
"I think it might just be a different interpretation," Welch said. "It's not anything we can't easily work out with a conversation."
She said the teachers' union is not pressuring the board to continue the incentive.
However, she did ask the board Dec. 4 to consider extending the deadline because she found some of the wording in a letter that went out to eligible teachers confusing.
The letter listed two of the three qualifications, and Welch said she wants to make sure teachers know there are three. All three were listed in the school board policy, which was attached.
Dimit said the current incentive has been in place since the 2007-08 school year and was implemented after negotiations with teachers.
He said he's personally against the incentive because it drains talent from the district and creates expectations among teachers. It's also difficult to give equal opportunities and incentives to non-certified employees.
Board member Paul Poulosky said while the district told the teachers during negotiations that the policy could end, that's only a decision that can be made in a school board's open meeting.
"It's a big decision," Poulosky said. "I want to make sure we're doing in the best interest of our taxpayers, of our employees and staff as a whole.
He said he's concerned it could hinder the school district when it comes to retaining staff members and is especially concerned that they may decide to work in other school districts that offer a similar incentive.
The Champaign school district offers a similar program, but in the contract with teachers it approved this fall, that program will end June 30 of next year.
Board member Peggy Patton said at the Dec. 4 meeting that she was concerned about continuing a policy that will cause the state to pay more in pension costs. It's also hard to know how much the school district saves, because the district can't know when the teachers would have retired if the program hadn't been in place.
She said Monday that she's still composing her thoughts on the issue and expects more information from the school district at the meeting.
Poulosky said he knows the district should be mindful of the state's situation but feels the board should put the school district first.