COLUMBUS — A state budget crunch that's expected to put the squeeze on school funding over the next couple of years has the Columbus Public Schools Board of Education looking at extending a temporary early retirement incentive program for 2017-18.

The board discussed the program Monday evening to offer certified staff who are contemplating early retirement the choice of shifting their plans to the end of the current school year.

Extending the retirement incentive program is under consideration because of all the “doom and gloom” surrounding school funding over the next two years, said David Melick, executive director of business operations and human relations for CPS.

The school board is expected to take action on the proposal at its meeting next Monday.

There are 22 staff members — 17 teachers and five administrators — eligible to participate this school year in the 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.

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

In past years, eligible staffers were offered a two-year window to accept or reject the early retirement incentive.

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.

Melick 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.

“The average savings (per retiring staffer) would be $40,000,” Melick said.

Eligible employees who want to participate must submit an application and agreement form by Feb. 16, if the program is approved.

Board President Theresa Seipel, board member Tim Pospisil and Superintendent Troy Loeffelholz brought the possibility of continuing the early retirement program before the board.

Board members Candace Becher and Mike Goos recognized the district could lose some experienced staff members.

“I’m a little ambivalent,” Goos said. “We could be losing some really qualified people if they’re not ready to leave.”

The program, Pospisil said, is a way for the board to manage the budget and give people a chance to retire early.

The eligible staffers are spread across all of the district’s educational departments and school buildings, he said, adding that it wouldn’t be a case of the high school losing all three of its English teachers at once.