REDDING – Approximately nine teachers have adopted an early retirement plan to help the district save money and prevent student programs from being cut.
Several teachers, in conjunction with their union, the Redding Education Association, had noted the district was struggling to meet its budget needs and feared that student programs would be chopped off.
The union has negotiated a voluntary early retirement program with the Education Council that will save the district an estimated $ 188,000 in fiscal 2022, create long-term savings, and pave the way for nine teachers to retire early next two years.
"The REA came to me with this idea, which they would like to propose, and realized it could have a positive impact on our district budget," said School Superintendent Rydell Harrison.
Herman Whitter, a regional organizer and trainer for the Connecticut Education Association who facilitated the negotiations, said only teachers who had been in the district for at least 12 years and topped the payroll would qualify for the incentive.
At that point, only one teacher had plans to retire. According to the agreement, six teachers will now retire in early June 2021 and three more in June 2022. Five of the six first year teachers leaving will be from Redding Elementary while the other is from John Read Middle School. The sophomore teachers will all withdraw from John Read.
Those who chose to retire in the first year will receive $ 17,000 per year in addition to their pension for three years, and teachers who retire in the second year will receive an additional $ 15,000 per year for two years.
"The plan was structured so that they could choose either of those two lanes as long as we saw an irrevocable retirement at this point this year," said Christopher Parkin, chairman of the education committee.
Under this contract, these teachers will no longer be allowed to teach in the district or elsewhere, said Bonnie Spies, co-president of the Ridgefield Union.
Harrison said the deal was intended to provide a financial incentive for retirees that would carry them for two or three years and help keep their health insurance in place until all of their retirement benefits go into effect.
Other teachers have examined the offer but were not ready to take this step, Spies said.
"We really care about the community and wanted to make sure we can participate if we can help the board save money on their budget," she said.
Whitter agreed, saying that the teachers and their respective unions wanted to keep the useful programs children receive. Without these savings, there was the potential to reduce them.
Similar deals have been made in the past, including in 2018. When the board of directors considered starting a new contract in July, Parkin said it was "an opportune time" to have such discussions.
The estimated savings are around $ 188,000, but will ultimately depend on who is hired to replace the retirees and what the salary bracket is.
"When a teacher retires at the top of the pay scale, consider hiring a teacher who is early or earlier in his career," Harrison said. "That's a significant amount of savings that could benefit the Board of Ed."
This plan would not only save budget, but also allow the district to keep some of the teachers on a permanent basis for others who were on vacation during the pandemic.
The board on Monday cut its budget proposal by around $ 188,000 and, given the approved conditions, reduced the increase from 2.99 percent to 2.16 percent.
While this incentive plan is a vehicle for "ongoing savings," Parkin said it would be "premature" to say whether additional cuts would be made to the district budget.
The CFO will continue his discussions on the schools' spending in a meeting on Monday.