Veteran teachers and other staff in the Marysville Exempted Village School District will have the option to accept a retirement incentive/buyout as the district continues to look for ways to reduce costs while maintaining programs.

Veteran teachers and other staff in the Marysville Exempted Village School District will have the option to accept a retirement incentive/buyout as the district continues to look for ways to reduce costs while maintaining programs.

Superintendent Larry Zimmerman presented the proposal to the school board at its Jan. 24 meeting.

"We're looking for creative ways to impact our cash flow," Zimmerman told board members. "We did this once before and the benefit was significant."

More importantly, he said, the option would likely mean the district would not be faced with the possibility of layoffs nor the cutting or elimination of programs.

Zimmerman said the move is in anticipation of a loss in state funding.

The plan would offer employees with 10 or more years with the district $45,000 plus their contractual severance pay, paid monthly over a 5-8-year period, depending on whether the employee is eligible for retirement based on the State Teachers Retirement System.

Zimmerman said, in discussions with Marysville Education Association representatives, that as many as 36 teachers could opt for the incentive. The district stands to save up to $6.6-million over the term of the incentive.

Board member Tracy Greer asked how many position would be filled.

Zimmerman said the answer depends on the program areas affected by the teachers leaving, but that the lion's share would likely be replaced.

Zimmerman made it clear to ThisWeek that the total cost of the retirement incentive, including the rehire of younger teachers at lower pay, would be less than if the district continued to pay the veteran teachers.

"There is clearly a cost," Zimmerman told ThisWeek. "Including all costs the savings far exceed (paying salaries of staff members who take the incentive). Otherwise, I wouldn't have proposed it."

Board member Doug Lassiter expressed concern that the retirement incentive is becoming cyclical, while not addressing larger salary concerns. "At some point, is the additional salary (paid to veteran teachers) not a benefit," he asked. "If we're saying we can maintain the program (with lower-paid teachers), there's a problem there that should be fixed."

"That's the situation," Zimmerman replied. "We start (salaries) lower than certain professional fields and make it up over time. You'd have to go to a scale where your starting teachers are paid more to be competitive."

"These teachers are an investment no matter how high on the salary schedule," Juliet Litzel, MEA president and an intervention specialist in the district, told ThisWeek. "Their knowledge and experience are worth it. They have the option to stay for years and years at that level of pay or take the incentive. If they (do), the savings is significant to the district."

"When you lose quality folks and have to replace them, it's a gamble," Zimmerman said.

Board president Jeff Mabee said he has witnessed the energy that young teachers bring to the classroom and expressed little concern over finding quality replacements.

Lassiter said he would prefer the district's finance committee examine the issue prior to the vote, but was told that the timetable for implementation made it unworkable.

"I don't know how the finance committee could do that in a month," Mabee said.

"My recommendation is to go forward" with the incentive," Zimmerman said. "I don't know if I matter as much as the finance committee or not, but in my seat, I've got decisions to make. That's my job."

The measure passed two to one, with Lassiter voting against. Board members John Freudenberg and Roy Fraker were absent.

The measure now requires a memorandum of understanding to be signed by Zimmerman and Litzel.

"I'll ask my executive committee to vote on me signing," Litzel said. "I anticipate they would since this is a good incentive for those highly qualified and higher salary teachers."