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Auburn Union offers $20-30K retirement bonuses

School board seeks to help relieve district budget woes
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Roughly a dozen teachers and other Auburn Union staff waited outside of the district office Wednesday in hopes of receiving as much as $30,000 to retire by the end of the school year. The Auburn Union Elementary School District has opted to pay senior teachers retirement incentives to soften the effects of a fiscally unsettled year. Staff received word last week that the district could afford to cut checks to a maximum of 11 employees, with enrollment opening up at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Teachers showed up at the district office on Epperle Lane as early as 7 a.m. Wednesday to get in line. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, 11 staff members ” nine teachers, a counselor and a psychologist ” had secured their places in line. Some of them were here before we even got to work, Michele Schuetz, district superintendent, said Wednesday afternoon. Schuetz said district officials, along with the Auburn Union Teachers Association, composed and sent last week a joint notice of the retirement incentive. This is an unusual year for everybody. Between declining enrollment and school closure and budget issues, we anticipate laying off more teachers than normal, Schuetz said, noting that Auburn Union has until March 15 to make staffing cuts for the 2008-09 school year. This way, we provided an opportunity, so those who are ready to retire, we are giving them a way to do it. We don't know if it fits everybody's needs, but it's what we could offer at this time. Certificated staff who meet retirement criteria and have worked up to 24 years with the district qualify for a $20,000 incentive, said Robbie Montalbano, assistant superintendent of business. Teachers with 25 or more years qualify for $25,000. All teachers, regardless of years served, also qualify for an additional $5,000 if they submit their intent to retire by March 11, Montalbano said. The retirement incentive is designed to save costs associated with paying the salaries of some of the district's senior-most teachers, Montalbano said. It should take about two years for the district to recuperate the cost of the incentive payments. This allows us to keep teachers that are newer, and therefore lower on the pay scale, Montalbano said. Of course, there's the benefit of giving a few less pink slips. Bruce Hart, an art teacher at E.V. Cain Middle School, said he arrived at the district office shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, and that four people were already in line. I was going to retire anyway, he said. I've had a lovely run but it's time to get out and do something different. Hart said he understands why the district opted to offer the retirement incentives. This will allow them to get some new blood, with less expense, he said. Jill Keppler has taught at Alta Vista School for 37 years. This has just kind of made the decision for me, she said of the incentive. I was kind of toying with it and this came along. It's a good move for people like me, with all my years in. Keppler said Wednesday afternoon that she felt OK with her decision to retire. It feels good. I've made my choice, I've made my decision, and this is the right one for me, she said. It's scary, but I'm looking forward to some new challenges. The Journal's Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at lorylln@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment.