BOE: Incentive ‘very generous’
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · December 24, 2013

Teachers and other school staff aged 55 and up with at least 14 years in the West Branch district must decide by Jan. 6 if they want to take an early retirement package.

The West Branch Board of Education on Dec. 9 voted unanimously to offer the incentives to anyone eligible — and there are no limits like in some past years.

There are two options:

• A cash payment equal to 20 percent of their salary plus longevity, as well as up to $450 per month toward healthcare premiums until they are eligible for Medicare.

• A cash payment equal to 50 percent of their current salary plus longevity.

Board member Mike Owen wanted to make it clear that the early retirement may not be offered again next year.

“We’ve probably offered it too many times,” he said.

Superintendent Kevin Hatfield stressed the incentives are strictly voluntary.

“We’re not trying to strong-arm anybody,” he said.

Owen noted that the recommendation did not include a cap on the number of people who could apply. In 2010, when the struggling economy led to $366,000 in cuts to West Branch schools, the school board tried to cut $125,000 from employee salaries by offering early retirement packages for up to five staff, but only one applied.

Hatfield noted that there are eligibility requirements which will limit who can apply.

Board President Kathy Knoop wanted to clarify that the $450 per-month healthcare payout must go toward a healthcare premium.

“It’s not cash in hand,” she said.

Business Manager Angie Klinkkammer said a single person on the school’s health insurance costs about $480 a month, so the retired staff member must make up the difference.

Board member Richard Paulus said the two early retirement packages “are pretty clearly laid out.”

“Its generous of the district to offer these,” he said.

Knoop agreed.

“It’s very generous,” she said.

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