A small group of Steamboat Springs School District employees will work under post-retirement contracts next year, even as the district tries to phase out the practice of awarding such contracts.
The School Board approved so-called 110-day contracts for eight teachers and support staff members earlier this week upon the recommendation of Superintendent Donna Howell. The post-retirement contracts allow employees who technically have retired to be rehired by a school district and paid at their previous salaries while also receiving retirement benefits from the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association, or PERA.
The post-retirement contracts, which allow employees to work 110 days a calendar year before their benefits are affected, are advantageous for employees because they can continue to work and receive a full salary while also collecting retirement benefits.
However, recent statutory changes have made the arrangement less beneficial to school districts, which, beginning July 1, will have to pay their portion of PERA contributions for their post-retirement employees. Neither school districts nor post-retirement employees currently have to pay PERA contributions.
Because of the pending changes, the Steamboat Springs School District no longer will allow post-retirement employees to receive any district benefits, including health insurance.
"It's still a financial benefit to the employee, and it's a savings to the district," Howell said.
Although awarding post-retirement contracts to district employees has been a relatively common practice, the district has taken steps to move away from the special agreements. The School Board passed a resolution last year stipulating that post-retirement employees could work under that arrangement for only one year. The School Board also directed Howell to award post-retirement contracts only in areas of "critical shortage" or severe and extenuating circumstances.
Of the eight employees whose post-retirements contracts for the 2005-06 school year were approved, three meet the critical-shortage criterion, Howell said. A critical shortage occurs when a retiring employee holds a position that is difficult to fill because of a shortage of qualified candidates in the job market. Two of the critical shortages are for bus-driving positions and one is for a calculus teacher. The other post-retirement contracts were awarded to employees who didn't take advantage of the district's former experience and longevity policy that paid eligible employees an extra stipend for the last three years of their planned employment. Some employees who were paid the stipends didn't retire at the end of the three years, however, and the policy eventually was declared illegal, Director of Finance and Operations Dale Mellor said.
The district then adopted an early retirement policy, still in effect, for teachers who weren't able to take advantage of the Experience and Longevity policy.
District employees who haven't used the Experience and Longevity or early retirement policies will be allowed to enter into post-retirement contracts with the district, Howell said. The district will work to phase out post-retirement contracts in future years, she said.
The employees who will work under post-retirement contracts next year are Pam Brandt, Bo Yennie, Chris Decker, Betsy Zimmerman, Cheri Daschle, Becky Hicks, Lynda Stahl and Bob Hiester.