Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Hayden The Hayden School Board on Wednesday approved a plan that will benefit schools while bumping up teachers' retirement payments.
Teachers nearing retirement have the option to waive their district service bonus -- given to employees who have worked for the district for 15 years or more -- and instead tutor extra hours for a salary stipend.
The stipend would boost teachers' salaries for as many as three years, ultimately raising benefits they receive from the Colorado Public Employee Retirement Association.
The option -- called the Longevity Service Work Stipend -- would apply to all district employees.
"So far, it looks pretty solid," Superintendent Mike Luppes said, noting that an auditor has reviewed the plan to make sure it fits PERA guidelines.
The Hayden Education Assoc--iation proposed the stipend as an alternative to a practice nixed by PERA earlier this year.
That practice allowed employees nearing retirement to raise their salaries by paying their own health benefits. The district increased those employees' annual pay by the amount of money it would have paid in health insurance.
Another way staff can raise their PERA benefits is to "purchase" years from PERA.
Some staff use their district service bonus for that purpose, explained Kevin Dellit, president of the Hayden Education Association.
However, as PERA increases the cost to purchase years, teachers' bonuses buy fewer and fewer years -- making the stipend a better option, he said.
By Wednesday, the Hayden Education Association and Lup--pes agreed on all points of the stipend plan but one: the maximum amount for which an employee would be allowed to work.
Luppes' proposed an employee's total stipend during three years should be slightly less than what he or she would receive as a service bonus. That would account for additional PERA costs to the district with the plan.
Dellit said teachers were adamant the stipend be equal to the service bonus.
"We realize you're paying a little bit more by doing it this way, but you're getting a lot of work," he said.
Dellit noted that a "master employee," or staff member in the district for 20 years or more, would end up working about three extra weeks per school year if they participate in the plan 100 percent.
Employees may participate at a 50-percent or 100-percent level.
"You're looking at less than $10 an hour for tutoring from professionals," he said.
After an executive session, the board approved the Hayden Education Association's plan, which brings the stipend in line with the bonus amount.
Board member Patty Bruchez voted against the plan.