Olentangy Valley News

District emphasizes benefits of retire-rehire

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Olentangy Local School District officials say the district will save big by striking deals with seven employees who will retire and be rehired by the district.

At an April 25 meeting, the school board voted 4-1 to approve resolutions stating intent to rehire two recently retired Liberty High School teachers: science teacher Herbert Helfrich and intervention specialist Dora D'Amato.

Board member Adam White voted "no."

The sometimes-controversial practice has been called "double-dipping" by detractors because it allows employees to begin collecting on state retirement benefits while maintaining employment.

But the district saves money because the employees are hired back at a decreased salary.

Superintendent Wade Lucas said Olentangy would save $220,200 annually if similar deals are made with five more employees before the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. He added retire-rehire personnel have saved the district roughly $787,700 since 2009.

"You may be for retire-rehire, you may be against retire-rehire, but once you get to really understand what it's all about, I'm not sure how you can deny almost $800,000 for a savings over five years," Lucas said.

All savings for the district will come in the form of salary reductions. Ohio law requires eligible individuals to continue to receive insurance through their employer, so they can't draw on insurance benefits through their retirement plan.

One resident addressed the board to critique the retire-rehire process.

Bob Ruhlman said rehired teachers save money for the district but remain a burden on Ohio taxpayers, since they collect pensions through the State Teachers Retirement System.

"We're looking at it from a micro-level, in terms of what Olentangy is saving," Ruhlman said, "but in terms of the state of Ohio, there's no savings. We all know it."

The process does benefit Olentangy by allowing it to retain its most-experienced teachers for a few additional years, said Human Resources Executive Director Gale Marsh.

"They have the full endorsement of their building principal," Marsh said. "I ask them if this is an excellent teacher to make sure that we're keeping someone who we really want to work with our kids, so we can capture that experience and expertise at a lower cost."

Marsh stressed that just six of 1,150 teachers are being considered for retire-rehire this year, adding: "This is not something we do lightly."

Retirements for Helfrich and D'Amato were accepted in February. The April 25 public hearing followed a mandatory 60-day waiting period and public hearing.

The other employees under consideration for retire-rehire are guidance counselors James Boyd, Daniel Straub and Bruce Fritch, world languages teacher Stephen Krammes, and Assistant Superintendent Linda Martin.

Also at the April 25 meeting, the school board:

* Approved the purchase of nine 71-passenger buses from Rush Trucking at a cost of $759,558.

* Finalized plans to increase the cost of school breakfasts from $1.25 to $1.50 for the start of the 2013-14 school year. The price remains 30 cents for students who receive reduced-price lunches.

* Approved an agreement with Dave York Sports Inc. for the installation of a grandstand and press box at Shanahan Middle School at a cost of $148,285.

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