BRADENTON -- Manatee County’s school board unanimously approved a retirement option that could save the district hundreds of thousands of dollars over two years.
The “one-time retirement incentive program” was brought up by a member of the school district’s budget committee -- a group that met from mid-January through March to determine ways the district could raise and save money, said Superintendent Tim McGonegal
“This item is something I don’t believe has been done in Manatee County,” McGonegal said. “It was very successful in Highlands County.”
Those eligible for the program would have to be supervisors, managers or administrators at or near the top of their pay grades with about two years left in the state’s retirement program. The eligible employee will have to retire or resign no later than July 31, 2011. Plus their effective end date would have to be by Dec. 31, 2011.
If 15 people take advantage of the incentive program, the district could save $157,000 at the end of the first year and $305,000 at the end of the second year, McGonegal said.
Employees participating in the program would not be eligible for re-employment for 10 years, as agreed upon by board members.
“This was one of the ways we were able to continue to appropriate funding for our schools,” board member Barbara Harvey said about what worked in the past. “It did make a real difference in the bottom line.”
There is a cost associated with the option, McGonegal said.
“The cost of leadership and talent we’re going to lose. Five years ago, this couldn’t have worked because we could not have filled those positions,” he said.
School officials face cutting anywhere from $10 million to $15 million from the coming school year’s budget.
The state House and Senate cut per-student funding by about $540, according to school Chief Financial Officer Jim Drake. In the last three years, the school district has had to cut $46 million. McGonegal is expected to announce at the May 23 board meeting the effect of budget cuts on the district.
Board members also unanimously approved an increase in the cost of school lunches by 5 cents due to a mandate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Education. Board members also unanimously rejected an employee health and productivity center.