The Marshalltown School Board voted to discontinue the voluntary early retirement incentive program for teachers for one year as a way to help address a shortfall in the school district's general budget at its meeting Monday.
The meeting was attended by dozens of teachers who were concerned by the one-year elimination of the incentive program - which provides insurance for teachers after retirement for several years - that it will mean the program could go away into the future.
Marshalltown Superintendent Marvin Wade said a decrease in student enrollment and state funding uncertainty led to his recommendation to discontinue the early retirement incentive program after the 2013-14 school year, citing the school district was at "a cliff" as far as the budget.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
Marshalltown High School teacher Brad Weidenaar speaks to the Marshalltown School Board about the proposal to discontinue the early retirement incentive policy at the school board meeting Monday. The board decided to discontinue the policy for one year at the end of the 2013-14 school year and dozens of teachers were in attendance opposed to the discontinuation.
The district actually saves money by funding the early retirement program as it saves by paying a new teacher instead of the veteran teacher salary. The district feels it can save money faster by discontinuing the program after next year, with the possibility of more teachers opting to retire at the end of the current school year, since the policy is still in place this year.
The board decided to go with Wade's recommendation despite the fact several teachers spoke out against discontinuing the policy.
"This is a very touch decision for all of us," said School Board President Sherm Welker. "At this point we are looking at a very serious budget issue."
Welker said if this budget shortfall is not addressed there is a possibility of pink slips for school staff next spring. Teachers said the early retirement issue has led to uncertainty among the teaching staff who feel they are not valued and there is low morale.
"Veteran teachers in our district should not be pressured to retire by withdrawing this benefit," said Franklin Elementary Teacher Nancy Van Wyk, who was one of eight teachers to address the board on the issue.
Wade said the proposed shortfall in the general budget is $949,000. The only vote against discontinuing the policy was by board member John Johnson.
"Everything I was given as proof as why we need to do this was an assumption," Johnson said.
The discussion on the policy by the teachers and the board lasted nearly two hours. Board member Anne Paullus said in no way does discontinuing this policy mean the school board disrespects its veteran staff.
"That's not how we feel," Paullus said.
The decision does not affect those teachers currently retired, but would affect those who were looking to retire at the end of next school year. The next regular meeting of the school board will be at 5 p.m. Nov. 19.