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Apollo-Ridge looks to cut costs, maintain quality through early retirements | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Apollo-Ridge looks to cut costs, maintain quality through early retirements

Mary Ann Thomas
| Wednesday, March 13, 2019 4:53 p.m
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Apollo-Ridge School District is offering an early retirement package to teachers with five or more years of experience — a package for which about 80 percent of the district’s nearly 100 teachers would be eligible.

“The timing of the offer is to continue our desire to creatively find ways to save money while offering a top quality educational program and being respectful of our taxpayers,” said Apollo-Ridge Superintendent Matt Curci.

The district hasn’t offered offered a comparable early retirement program for teachers for at least 20 years, according to Curci. A smaller retirement incentive package was available about eight or so years ago, he said.

There is no plan for furloughs nor does the district have a target number of retirements, he said. The district currently has 99 teachers.

Eligible teachers have an April 1 deadline to apply for the early retirement package, which would take effect June 30.

Under the package, the district would contribute $12,000 per year for five years to a retiree’s 403(b) fund, which is similar to a 401(k). That would be in addition to a pension and other benefits from the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement with the Apollo-Ridge Education Association, according to Curci.

District teachers not eligible for the package either started their teaching careers at the district right out of college and don’t meet the age requirement or entered teaching as a second career and don’t meet the years of service requirements, according to Curci.

“An incentive helps individuals look at their unique situations to determine if retirement is right for them right now,” he said.

It would be “bittersweet” to lose teachers, but from a business perspective, it would benefit the district, Curci said.

Apollo-Ridge has a large percentage of faculty at the top of the union’s pay scale, according to Jeff Jones, teachers’ union president.

“Any time a veteran teacher at or close to the top retires, that always better protects those with less seniority,” he said.

On average, if the district replaces a retiring teacher with another at the starting salary, the savings is around $150,000 over five years, according to Curci.

If the teacher is not replaced, the savings can be greater than $500,000 over five years, he said.

Like most other school districts, Apollo-Ridge’s enrollment has declined by at least a few hundred students in the past five years and close to 400 over the past decade, according to Curci.

At the same time, expenses have increased and state and federal funding hasn’t kept pace with the cost of education, special education, retirement contributions, cyber charter payments and unfunded mandates, Curci said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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