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Smith offers 8 percent stipend

By LAURA DUKES

Staff writer

To get a better grasp on and possibly free up some funding for the fiscal 2014 budget, Calvert County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith is trying to make retirement more appealing to eligible employees.

On Tuesday, Nov. 20, Smith emailed a memorandum to all CCPS employees offering them a one-time payment of 8 percent of their current salary if they announce their retirement on or before Dec. 14. The employees would retire July 1, 2013.

The incentive also included the school system paying 100 percent of the cost of retiree health insurance benefits for a maximum of one year beginning July 1, 2013, or until the retiree reaches age 65, whichever occurs first.

To be eligible for the incentive, which Smith said would be granted on a first-come, first-serve basis, the employee must meet the Maryland State Retirement Agency eligibility requirements for normal service retirement and must have at least 25 years of creditable service toward retirement.

“We continue to be concerned about the funding in the coming year,” Smith said of his motivation for offering the incentive.

He said that for the past few years, the school system has become accustomed to not replacing certain high level administrative positions when employees retire. When this happens, an existing employee may assume two positions, like Kim Roof, who is the executive director of adminstration and director of student services. Diane Workman, Cheryl Johnson and Mark Wilding all serve as principals but also hold central office director positions.

In circumstances when high level retirees are replaced, Smith said it’s frequently with employees in mid-level positions, occasionally from other school systems. Smith said these mid-level employees often will be brought into top positions on a lower salary than their retired predecessors.

Smith said in more recent years, he had been offering employees incentives around “a couple thousand dollars” to announce their retirement early.

He said 8 percent of a salary of $80,000 is $6,400.

Smith said while he knew of several employees eligible for the incentive, “each person has his or her own circumstance.

“This gives us more information so we can do more effective planning,” Smith said of the Dec. 14 deadline.

Debbie Russ, the president of the Calvert Education Association — the union representing CCPS teachers — forwarded Smith’s Nov. 20 memorandum to The Calvert Recorder. Russ said she wished Smith had told her about the memorandum before he sent it.

“I’m thinking he’d like to know who’s leaving to free up some money,” Russ said.

Russ said as someone who is not planning to retire, the 8 percent payment would not give her enough motivation to leave earlier than planned. Russ estimated that the one-time payment would “be taxed very heavily.”

“That’s always a little nice icing on the cake if you’re already planning to retire, but if I wasn’t, that wouldn’t have encouraged me,” Russ said.

Russ said the school system once offered five years of health care for employees who announced their retirement early.

“That’s pretty significant to me,” Russ said.

Russ said she had yet to hear from any of her union’s members about the incentive and was currently looking into how many of them were eligible.

ldukes@somdnews.com