Pickerington Times-Sun

Pickerington superintendent seeks retire-rehire deal

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Citing forthcoming retirement system changes which would cause him to lose money, Pickerington Local School District Superintendent Rob Walker will seek to retire this summer and then be rehired by the district.

Walker, who was hired as superintendent March 28, 2012, said last week he fully intends to work four more years, when he will turn 62.

However, under a proposal he's put before the school board, there would be a one-day interruption in what to date has been Walker's 35-year career.

The board will hold a hearing at 7 p.m. June 10 to discuss Walker's proposal to retire for a single day and then be rehired to serve out at least the final two years of his original three-year contract with the district.

According to Walker, he's seeking the retire-rehire scenario because of changes in the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio's pension plan policy.

"This is something that came out during the interview (with board members) last year," Walker said. "I made them aware this would be my 35th year. I told the board I would not lose money by allowing STRS to make changes that would affect me."

According to the STRS website, the Ohio General Assembly passed pension reform legislation in September 2012 in an attempt to improve the financial conditions of all five of Ohio's pension systems, including the STRS.

"Before the 2008 investment market downturn, STRS Ohio's pension fund had a funding period of 41.2 years, exceeding state statute's 30-year maximum," the STRS site states. "Economic and demographic factors, such as members living longer, were causing a reduction in available funds to pay off accrued liabilities over time.

"The unprecedented decline in the global investment markets and the accompanying recession, along with the protracted economic recovery, significantly accelerated the need for STRS Ohio to make changes. If no changes were made, STRS Ohio would eventually be unable to pay benefits."

Under the changes, STRS members who retire any time before July 1, 2013 won't receive a cost-of-living adjustment in their pensions during the 2014 fiscal year (July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014).

Members who retire effective July 1, 2013, won't receive a cost-of-living adjustment on July 1, 2014.

After missing one cost-of-living adjustment, retirees will resume the adjustments at 2 percent per year.

Members retiring after July 1, 2013 will also receive a 2-percent cost-of-living adjustment, but it won't begin until the fifth anniversaries of their retirements.

Walker, who turns 58 in May, said the financial details of his retire-rehire proposal haven't been finalized, but such action would enable him to afford the loss of his cost-of-living adjustment.

Further, he said there will be cost savings to the PLSD via a reduction in either his annual salary or employee benefits.

"I've not seen anything in writing," he said. "We're only discussing it verbally and I don't know where the board is going to go with that.

"I think it's over $15,000 or $20,000 less than what they were paying (former Superintendent Karen) Mantia, who was a retire-rehire."

According to the PLSD treasurer's office, Walker's current annual salary is $135,000 and his employee benefits -- which include Medicare, life insurance, health and dental insurance, a $6,000 vehicle allowance and a $600 mobile telephone allowance -- total an additional $71,700.

Prior to her resignation, Mantia received an annual salary of $144,000 and employee benefits valued at a total of $63,492.

Board President Cathy Olshefski said the board was aware of STRS factors related to Walker's age and years in education at the time he was hired.

So, she said, the board wasn't surprised by the retire-rehire proposal.

"When you put all those pieces of the puzzle together, no, it didn't come as a shock to us," Olshefski said. "(District human resources officials) and the union have been encouraging our staff over the last year or so to meet with whom they need to meet with ... to be very clear on how these changes in law were going to impact their retirements."

In addition to an announcement at the board's March 11 meeting about the June 10 hearing to discuss the matter, Olshefski said, the board plans to schedule a date to vote on Walker's proposal.

"That is our intent, but beyond an intent we have not worked through any specifics," she said.

Olshefski said the board hasn't finalized any salary or benefit arrangements related to Walker's request, but did note the board currently has no intention of opening a superintendent search in light of the recent proposal.

The last time the board was set to consider a retire-rehire proposal for a district administrator was in February 2012, when former treasurer Dan Griscom announced plans to seek a retire-rehire scenario.

Under that plan, Griscom said he volunteered to receive less compensation through an employee benefits reduction, which he and board members said would have saved the district $12,958.

However, Griscom pulled back from the retire-rehire plan following negative reactions from some community members who opposed allowing him to draw from the STRS pension while also receiving a salary and benefits from the district.

Griscom eventually chose to retire from the district last Feb. 1.

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