By NEESEY PAYNE
A plan that wasn’t turning heads might get a few more looks. Pulaski County Public Schools is looking at giving its Employee Extended Work Plan a new makeover.
In June 2009 when the Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP) was adopted, those seeking to retire had the option to receive their sick leave payout and participate in the incentive program. However, in 2010 that changed – forcing retirees to choose between the payout or the program.
“… Most are choosing the sick leave payout,” said Dr. Gregory Brown, assistant superintendent for leadership, policy and student services for Pulaski County Public Schools, in an earlier school board meeting.
During that meeting, the board approved staff’s recommendation to end the program – allowing its 58 participants to fulfill their five years on the plan while research was conducted to find a more attractive option for retirees.
Since then, staff has been researching various programs used in school districts across southwest and most of central Virginia. At a recent session of the board, Brown said staff polled 31 school divisions to find which type of ERIP program was most popular.
Four program options were explored. They included:
A. A percentage of the employee’s final salary is paid in exchange for a number of days substituting for one year only.
B. A percentage of the employee’s final year salary for multiple years is paid in exchange for a number of days substituting for same multiple years. (This is the program the school system currently has.)
C. A flat dollar amount or percentage is paid with no reciprocity on the employee’s part.
D. There is no documented ERIP policy and/or school board and staff evaluate the need yearly and offer a flat dollar amount or percentage if need exists.
Brown said one school used program A; seven, program B; seven, C, and 16, program D.
He said staff recommends the school system adopt option D because it would allow the board the “ability to tailor an early retirement incentive plan on a year-to-year basis that does not hinder the board’s flexibility to address the unknown financial issues of future budget cycles.”
Vice-chairman Jeff Bain asked Brown if staff put “any consideration in their recommendation for how this will impact (the school system’s) competitiveness for attracting high-quality teachers into the system.”
Brown said the focus of the ERIP program was more on the “end of the process and offering something to our teachers as an incentive.”
Board member Joe Guthrie responded saying, “A new teacher coming in might reasonably expect this might not be the policy at the time when they retire.”
Brown agreed saying that most teachers seeking employment want to learn what the Virginia Retirement System has for them, rarely information on the ERIP program because “it’s such a long way down the path for new teachers coming aboard.”
He said the last of the retirees enrolled in the current program will complete their process in 2017.
The information will be brought forth again for the board to decide whether to adopt the new policy in the future.