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Retirement program addressed at webinar for area school leaders

An Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP) could be used “to give people a little nudge to retire…to consider that instead of laying people off,” Loudon County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Leigh Burden told Halifax County School board members and administrators attending a webinar Friday afternoon in Halifax.

 

The comment came in response to a question Director of Finance Jay Camp posed to Burden at the conclusion of the second of a three-part budget and finance webinar series held in the Mary Bethune complex school board conference room.

Burden led the webinar and went more in depth with participants on how the school budget is broken down and used.

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon, Executive Director for Administration Valdivia Marshall, Camp and school board members including ED-5 trustee Roger Long, ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield and ED-7 trustee R. K. “Dick” Stoneman attended the hour-long session.

Each board member attending will receive one point toward each webinar session for the Virginia School Board Association School Board Academy. Board members are required to attend one training session throughout the year.

Burden discussed funding sources, staffing, salaries and employee benefits, standards of quality and how to address surplus and savings within the budget.

The final webinar session on budget and finance will be held Tuesday at noon in the school board conference room at Mary Bethune office complex.

 

Early retirement incentive plan questioned

At the conclusion of Friday’s webinar, Camp asked Burden whether the Loudoun County Public School system had an early retirement incentive plan.

“Well, we don’t have an Early Retirement Incentive Plan. But we look at it every year to see if there might be a savings,” said Burden. 

She explained although the school system doesn’t have ERIP, they are hiring fewer employees as opposed to laying off employees.

“Generally in cut backs and when times are tight…we’re not really losing people so much as we’re not hiring people,” said Burden.

“If your enrollment is static and not changing, it might have been beneficial for you to give people a little nudge to retire…to consider that instead of laying people off,” she added.

Earlier this year, in what some education retirees described as “the ultimate betrayal,” Halifax County School Board members voted unanimously to terminate its version of the early retirement plan, the Local Optional Retirement Plan.

The program’s termination came less than one month after some employees had agreed to take early retirement in exchange for participation in the program.

Retirement benefits were based on 20 percent of the final contracted salary earned before the effective date of retirement, with the school board reserving the right to change the percentage annually.

Retirement program participation was available for not more than seven years, and the employee’s share of social security, federal income tax and state income tax was deducted from retirement pay.

Estimating the retirement plan cost over $1,433,000, Superintendent Herndon recommended the board terminate the program.

After several attempts to get school board members to reinstate the retirement program, the sting of betrayal lingered with retirees who decided in October to retain their own lawyer and pursue legal action.

Former LORP participants pooled resources to hire the services of attorneys from the Richmond law firm, Blackburn, Conte, Schilling and Click P.C.

Aside from acknowledging the school system had “received notice” from the retirees’ attorneys, Herndon and board members have refused to comment publicly on the dispute saying they have been advised by School Board Attorney Craig Woods not to discuss the matter with the public pending litigation.