COLUMBUS — Columbus Public Schools board members took a step Monday evening toward easing the expected pinch on state education funding in the next couple of years by approving a temporary early retirement incentive program for 2017-18.

The board voted 5-0, with member Doug Molczyk absent, to offer certified staff who are contemplating early retirement the choice of shifting their plans to the end of the current school year.

Last week, the board discussed extending the temporary early retirement program for a third straight year. The board initially brought the program out of retirement for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

District and state officials have been worried that education funding is in jeopardy because of the shape of the state’s revenue forecast.

CPS put its previous early retirement program in mothballs after the 2012-13 school year when state lawmakers stopped allowing school districts to levy outside the spending lid to fund early retirements.

There are 22 staff members — 17 teachers and five administrators — eligible to participate this school year in the retirement program. The oldest staffer would be 66 at the end of 2017-18 with two or three more in their early 60s and the rest in their upper 50s.

To participate in the program, retirees must be at least 55 years old and the sum of the participant’s age and years of service must total 85 or greater.

CPS will pay each approved employee a $27,000 sum in three installments from September 2018 to September 2020.

In the last two years, the district had six staffers accept early retirement incentives. Prior to this year, CPS had not allowed administrators to participate.

CPS officials said a continuation of the retirement program will allow the district to reduce costs by replacing maximum-salaried employees with staff members who earn less money and provide a better balance of employee experience.

Officials said the average savings per retiring staffer would be $40,000.

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Reporter

Jim Osborn is a news reporter at The Columbus Telegram.

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