Thirteen teachers in the Greater Johnstown School District have accepted a sick day buy-out incentive to retire early as part of a deal expected to save the district more than $500,000 in salaries and benefits next year.
The district’s teachers union contract does not provide for the buying back of sick time, but the school board members said they agreed to a one-time program to help lower costs for the 2009-10 school year.
The district also has been considering closing one of its elementary schools to address declining enrollment and cuts to anticipated state aid. District officials estimate that closing a school will save $819,000, mostly from staff eliminations.
A retiring teacher with at least 100 unused sick days will receive a maximum of $21,000 paid into a tax deferred account.
The buy-out program will cost the district approximately $273,000.
Wednesday night, the school board accepted the retirements of social studies teacher Ronald Beck, Spanish teacher Maria Greco, science teacher David Rockwell, special education teacher Jane Sitterly, English teacher Thomas Skoda, art teacher Kathryn Zajicek and music teacher Patricia Zullo, as well as elementary school teachers Lisa Buggeln, James Donovan, Roger Rhodes, Mary Ann Simek, Lynn Smero and Amy Sponenberg.
Interim Business Manager Ralph Acquaro said the district will save money because when a teacher retires, the cost of the teacher’s pension is entirely paid by the New York State Teachers Retirement System, whereas the district must pay the full cost of unemployment benefits for a laid-off teacher because the district doesn’t pay for unemployment insurance.
Superintendent Katherine Sullivan said the retirements won’t completely eliminate the need for staff cuts.
“Teachers have not been told, because the schedule has not been finalized, who will be let go,” she said.
Sullivan said it is her understanding that the district must use seniority to determine who will lose their jobs, following a “last in first out” rule that preserves the jobs of older, higher-paid teachers.