8 Greensburg Salem teachers must opt for early-retirement deal for incentives to take effect

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Greensburg Salem School District is offering teachers and other employees early-retirement incentive packages in hopes of realizing immediate savings.

In 9-0 votes on Wednesday, school directors backed the retirement packages for educators, custodians, maintenance workers and an administrative assistant.

The district would pay each retiree a yearly cash stipend of $4,000 and make a $4,000 contribution to their retirement accounts. The packages offer provisions for life insurance and medical coverage.

“We're going to save, on average, about $20,000 per teacher” who retires, Superintendent Eileen Amato said after the meeting.

At least eight teachers must opt for retirement for that package to take effect.

The district saves money because better-paid experienced employees are replaced by younger employees earning less, Amato said.

In an email, business manager James Meyer said he was unable to give an estimated cost savings for custodial, maintenance and other employees because of uncertainty about how many workers might retire. He did not return messages seeking comment.

Board President Nat Pantalone and Director Lee Kunkle said they voted to support the retirement packages because of their potential savings.

“Right now, we need to look at every possible realistic way to save money,” Kunkle said.

The district will make the cash payments and retirement contributions on Sept. 15. The district's payments will be made the first five years after the teacher, custodian, maintenance worker or administrative assistant retires.

The district offered the cash incentive for the first time under a 2011 retirement package.

To be eligible, a teacher must complete at least 30 years of service, with at least 15 years worked in the district. A custodial, maintenance or administrative assistant employee must complete 25 years of service, with at least 10 years worked in the district.

None of the employees must reach a set age to retire, as required in past plans.

The retirements must take place on or before June 30, and employees must apply by 4 p.m. April 15.

Budget rejected

In another matter, in a 5-4 vote, directors rejected the 2013-14 Westmoreland Intermediate Unit general operating budget of $5.36 million.

Kunkle, Pantalone, Ron Mellinger, Barbara Vernail and Angela DeMarino-Tooch voted no.

More budget cuts could have been made, they said.

Vernail, the district's representative on the IU board, Kunkle and Pantalone said salaries were not frozen under the new budget.

Administrators needed “to lead by example” by taking freezes, Vernail said.

“They're continuing to give administrators raises and here we are cutting and having people take pay freezes,” Kunkle added.

All 86 IU employees would need to accept a wage freeze for one to occur, Financial Director Allison Willis said. The operating budget covers 18 of those employees. Those 18 received an average 4.65 percent raise under the 2013-14 budget, she said.

The IU will consider wage freezes when the current agreements expire at the end of the 2013-14 school year, Executive Director Luanne Matta said.

“At that point, we can make all the necessary changes,” Matta said.

She added she earns less than many school superintendents in Westmoreland County.

Support personnel froze their wages in 2012-13, Willis said.

The operating budget covers eAcademy, general administration, curriculum and technology programs. The IU's larger $52 million budget covers special education, transportation and early intervention programs, Willis said.

The operating budget has increased by about $540,000 since the current year's spending plan. But the IU has undergone a restructuring with the 2013-14 budget that makes year-to-year comparisons difficult, Willis said.

For instance, more eAcademy teachers have been hired, but a spike in students in that program brings in more revenue, she said.

Under the new operating budget, the district would pay $5,840 more, for a total $27,332.

Most of the 17 member school districts in the county must vote for the IU spending plan for it to pass.

Directors set May 10 as a makeup day.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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