Nicolet School Board OKs post-retirement benefits

Tiered system offers varying payments, retirement ages

May 23, 2012

Glendale - After a year-long discussion, intense scrutiny and consultation with outside experts, Nicolet School Board members this week narrowly approved post-retirement and pension benefit plans for teachers and other faculty members.

Terms of the benefits will vary by employment group and the length of an employee's time in the district to date. The benefit plans were approved on a 3-2 vote Monday with board members Marilyn Franklin, Joe Kasle and Ellen Redeker voting in favor of the changes. Board members Mort Grodsky and Libby Gutterman voted against the proposal.

One of the most notable changes to the plan affects all employees. The district's cost of the premium will freeze once the employee exits. Any increases to the rate will be borne by employees.

The new retirement benefits plan has been implemented on a tiered system.

Most employee groups with 15 or more years of service will be eligible for seven years of insurance, beginning at age 55. This is the same benefit currently offered to most Nicolet employees.

The earliest retirement age for most staff with 10 to 14 years of service has been bumped up from 55 to 57 years of age, and six years of insurance will be offered.

Employees in most groups that currently have nine years of service or less will not be able to retire until age 59 and will be entitled to five years of insurance upon retirement. This group also will be required to put in at least 15 years of service to be eligible for benefits.

Benefits for administrators are similar, though employees in this group are able to retire from Nicolet after 10 years of service.

Nicolet's pension plan, a benefit offered to most employees, has been frozen at $10,000 per year for up to five years.

Secretaries and paraprofessionals have a different plan and can retire at age 62 with three years of insurance offered until the employee hits age 65 and is eligible for Medicare benefits.

Custodians and maintenance staff are another employee group separate from the plan approved Monday. Employees in this group remain under a collective bargaining agreement through June 30, 2013, and are able to retire at age 62.

Board members continued to offer mixed reactions to the changes during Monday's deliberations. Kasle made the motion to adopt the plan that is being implemented.

"I feel that this isn't unreasonable," Kasle said. "It's time to move off the dime on this and decide what we're going to do."

But Grodsky had a different perspective, citing past promises and understandings made to existing employees.

"I think we should meet the obligation to our staff that we have at this present time," Grodsky said.

Actuary Michael Blackburn continued his discussion with the Nicolet board and administrators during Monday's deliberations. With employees working longer, Blackburn said he believed the plan changes right-size the district.

Business Manager Jeff Dellutri acknowledged that the discussion has been lengthy, yet fruitful.

"There's multiple right answers to this," he said. "It's a complex issue. There's so many ways you can look at this and say this is the right answer."

With the plan in place for current employees, the board and administrators will begin hashing over retirement benefit options for future hires.

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