WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Burlington Schools Approve Early Retirements

Feb 17, 2016

The Burlington School Board offered an early retirement incentive to eligible teachers and support staff this year in an effort to ease the pressure on what is expected to be a tight budget for the 2016/2017 school year.  The result is that more than 400 years of experience will walk out the door at the end of the school year.

“A lot of dedicated staff that has served the district and the community, so it’s with a lot of appreciation and also with regrets that we do accept these retirements,” said Greg Reynolds, who is the district’s business manager.

A total of 16 employees will receive the incentive, which is a stipend based on the number of years an employee has been with the district and their unused sick leave. The payments will be spread out over two years.

Reynolds said the program will cost the district about $210,000 over the next two years, which is well below the $300,000 the board set as a cap for the program. But he does not believe there will be an effort to re-open the program to reach that cap.

There was one support staff employee whose application was not accepted because six support staff members applied and the school board capped the eligibility at five.

At this point, Reynolds said the district must decide what to do with the soon-to-be vacant positions.

“We will look at whether we need to replace those positions and start the process of filling them if they are filled,” said Reynolds. “There is a process that the district uses where employees can bid on positions that are open.”

Reynolds said the eventual savings, be it from leaving the positions vacant or hiring less experienced employees, will be factored into the 2016/2017 budget, which is being prepared. Another factor in that process will be how much to pay the teachers who remain in the district.

The Burlington Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers, is seeking a 10% increase in total compensation, which includes salaries, health insurance and other benefits.

The district countered with a freeze in compensation in its initial contract offer.

It also wants the flexibility to adjust the schedules for individual teachers, perhaps having them work during the summer, and to eliminate what’s known as a “bid day” requirement.

The district wants to be able to post jobs outside the district much sooner in the process, instead of waiting until “bid day,” during which employees within the district can move to a different position.

The two sides have exchanged their initial offers in public, so future negotiations can proceed behind closed doors.