The Bayport-Blue Point School District is offering teachers a one-time retirement incentive as part of its quest to close the $1.7 million budget gap facing the district and said the incentive would save the district about $800,000 in the upcoming year.
The incentive has to be taken by at least eight staffers and includes two options: fully paid healthcare coverage for life, or a one-time payout of unused sick days, to a maximum cost of $80,000.
The current teachers’ contract already provides a maximum payment of $37,000 for unused sick days to retiring teachers. The incentive is an additional $43,000, explained officials during Tuesday night’s budget hearing.
Currently the district pays 65 percent of the cost for a family health plan and 90 percent for an individual plan for retired teachers.
There are 17 teachers eligible for retirement as of June, according to officials. If eight do take the incentive, the district said at least four positions will not be replaced due to resource allocation.
While unanimously approved by the full board of education, several board members, including Board President James March, noted that offering a retirement incentive isn’t something the board takes lightly as it means the most experienced teachers leave the district.
“It’s often seen as forcing people out and I think we and the community don’t ever want that sense and we would like people to retire when they want,” said March.
“It’s the lesser of two evils,” he said, noting that the $800,000 savings will need to be achieved somewhere in the budget if the incentive is not successful
In explaining the incentive program Superintendent Dr. Vincent Butera noted that the goal is to avoid impacting programs that involve students and staying under the state mandated 2% tax cap levy.
“This could significantly help use reduce the gap and we don’t want to lay off staff, “ said Butera.
The money to pay for the incentives would come from an appropriated fund reserve that can only be used for specific purposes, according to the district’s attorney, and contractual costs including retirement incentives is on that list. If eight teachers take the incentive the cost paid by reserves would be $640,000.
“Our emphasis is on programs and we have to be honest of what we would lose in programs,” said Trustee Diane D’Angelo regarding the incentive option.
“I don’t think we can get there [close the budget deficit} without this,” said Trustee Rebecca Campbell. “If we don’t do this we would have to cut programs in a very significant way.”
Eligible district teachers now have 21 days to decide on whether to accept the incentive.