District favors retirement incentives

The Laguna Beach Unified School District board unanimously voted Jan. 14 for a tentative contract that would allow certain teachers and administrators to retire early and still reap certain benefits.

But the retirement incentive program would be offered only to employees who retire between June 15 and Aug. 15, the staff report said. The district has offered limited incentives in the past.

Members of the district's teachers union, Laguna Beach Unified Faculty Assn., must still vote on the proposal, its president, Linda Barker, wrote in an email.

District staff recommends offering an additional two years of service credit to eligible employees who are part of the California State Teachers Retirement System's defined benefit program, a district staff report said. The credit would be applied to the employees' retirement pension payment.

Affected employees could include full- and part-time teachers and principals, said Leisa Winston, the district's human resources and communications director.

Teachers were expected to vote on the proposed contract Friday, Barker said.

Even if the teachers' union supports the proposal, the district must wait to see how many employees sign up for the program, board member Betsy Jenkins said in a phone interview.

"We are not committed to doing it," Jenkins said. "We would find out how many people [sign up] at what salary rate and calculate if it is cost-neutral or advantageous [financially] to the district."

A CalSTRS member may retire at age 55 with at least five years of service credit; age 50 with at least 30 years of service credit (excluding unused sick leave); or age 55 with less than five years of service credits if eligible for retirement with another California public retirement system such as the California Public Employees' Retirement System, according to the staff report.

"We would continue to recruit folks who have experience, but we can bring in folks who are highly trained and less-experienced, and bring them in at a lower salary range," Winston said.

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