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home : news : news Tuesday, May 31, 2016

11/16/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Cal-Wheat approves early retirement offer

By Mary Rueter
Managing editor

Faced with projections of continued declining enrollment, the Calamus-Wheatland Community School Board Monday night agreed to offer an early retirement incentive to teachers who are at least 55 years old and have a minimum of 15 years of experience with the district. Ten staff members are eligible for the offer.

Superintendent Lonnie Luepker explained enrollment dropped by 17 students from last year to the current year, which, at $6,000 per student, will translate into $102,000 less in state aid for the 2014-2015 school year.

The Iowa Department of Education's certified enrollment projections estimate the district's enrollment will drop by an additional 56 students by the 2017-2018 school year.

"There is no crystal ball; the numbers could change," Luepker admits, but if they are correct, staff reductions will become inevitable. "The time is appropriate to offer an early retirement incentive," he added.

Calamus-Wheatland previously offered an early retirement option to six qualified staff members four years ago, Luepker said. Two took advantage of the offer.

Luepker recommended the board consider an offer of one-half of the teacher's base pay, paid out in three annual installments each January.

The potential savings to the district would be $258,751.89 if all 10 faculty members accepted the offer and all 10 were replaced with an inexperienced teacher at BA step 1 on the salary scale. Luepker said, however, it is possible some positions might be eliminated by attrition rather than filled by a new teacher.

The stipend would not be reflected as a general fund expense but would be shifted to the management levy, allowing the district to levy an additional 59 cents in property taxes.

Board member Scott Knudtson played the devil's advocate by asking, "Do we really want to encourage people to retire?"

"I'd rather do that than have to lay off teachers," board member Larry Banowetz commented.

Luepker encouraged the board to take action Monday night to allow the eligible employees to give the offer consideration.

"It's a big decision (to accept the offer)," board secretary Marika Pewe said. "You don't just sign up for it."

Air conditioning estimate

Luepker shared with the board an estimate from Cedar Rapids architects Knapp-Worden LLC to install air conditioning units in most rooms at both campuses and including electrical upgrades.

The $334,325 estimate is considerably lower than the approximately $1 million received from Wold Architects and Engineers of Dubuque last month.

Board president Ryan Vander Heiden observed, "That's a lot more promising - plus they have a track record locally," having performed a similar installation at Central Community Schools in DeWitt.

Luepker said he would like to make a recommendation to the board in December along with a plan for financing the work. He will be in contact with Matt Gillaspie of Piper Jaffray in Des Moines, the district's bond counsel.

Action in December would allow the project to be put out for bids in January.

The work would include all rooms except the kitchens, commons area, coaches offices, gyms, lunchrooms and ag building. The family consumer science classroom and the AEA office already have air conditioning.

Other business

In other business Monday, the board:

•Approved the snow plow bid of $45 per hour with Dan Bickel, doing business as Dan's Lawn Care. Bickel must secure administrator approval before applying salt and/or sand. Bickel's was the only bid received.

•Approved contracts for coaching with Brian Higgins for high school track and Josh Willey, assistant boys basketball. Both are for the 2013-2014 school year.

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