PERU — The Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10 board unanimously agreed to extend the amount of time a staff member will have to notify the district of retirement to April 15.
That is six weeks longer than usual, and is meant to give eligible teachers and other professional staff a chance to learn whether the state will eliminate or somehow change its contribution to retirement health benefits for state employees, which public school teachers are considered.
Superintendent Tom Ward said Gov. Paul LePage has proposed nonpayment of any percentage of the premiums for health insurance for state retirees. Now, with no changes, the state pays 45 percent for those who retire, providing the employee has worked a minimum of 15 years in the state of Maine.
The Legislature is expected to begin discussing the possible state retirement changes as proposed by LePage later this week.
The normal cutoff date for notifying the district of an intention to retire is March 1. Ward said that is the traditional date so that a district can work the implications of a retirement into the next year's budget. It also affects the number of non-used sick day payments that the employee can receive.
The position held by any eligible staff member who decides to retire under the extension will be evaluated as to whether it should be filled or left vacant.
About a half-dozen RSU 10 employees have already submitted their resignations effective at the end of the school year due to retirement.
The total number of staff who decide to retire, or who resign for some other reason, will directly affect the number of positions that may be lost when the proposed 2011-12 operating budget is completed.
Many school districts, including RSU 10, are being hit with a significant loss of revenue due to the completion of the federal stimulus funds program and other federal grants.
Evidence of that was shown at Tuesday's board meeting when several principals, who presented their requests for the upcoming school year, indicated that some fiscal amounts were placed in the regular budget that hadn't been there before. In most cases, a new budgetary line was added because federal funding would not be available for the next school year.
Ward said the board would know the number of positions that must be eliminated by May 1.
The current year's budget is $34.2 million, which includes about $800,000 in federal stimulus funds. Total student enrollment, prekindergarten to grade 12, is about 2,800. The region has a staff of just over 600.