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Retirement incentive for teachers approved by Depew School Board

A retirement incentive for teachers was approved by the Depew Board of Education on Tuesday as it grapples with a $1.8 million cut in state aid while preparing the 2010-11 budget.

In an agreement with the Depew Teachers Organization, the board extended the $26,000 incentive that is in the contract for teachers who retire in the first year they're eligible -- generally age 55 with 30 years' experience -- to any teacher who retires as of June 30. Under a memorandum of agreement with the teachers union, the board will not authorize any new retirement agreements for at least two years from the date of this offer.

The board also accepted the nonrescindable resignations for retirement of six teachers. If those six positions are abolished, the district would realize a savings of $800,000, according to interim Superintendent Dennis D. Ford. However, no decisions have yet been made on whether all or some of those positions can be abolished, according to Ford and board President Steven A. Carmina.

Staff retirements are one of six options for closing the deficit caused by the cut in state aid that was part of Gov. David A. Paterson's budget proposal.

Ford, Assistant Superintendent Susan B. Frey and district Business Manager Theresa A. Rusin outlined next year's budget, which the board plans to adopt April 13. It will also hold a budget work session, open to the public, on March 30. The time and site are to be announced later.

Ford said that many districts across the state are experiencing "chaotic conditions" and are "gutting, not just cutting," budgets for next year.

"The specifics of Depew's budget are far from concrete, but this board is looking at things from a cut, not a gut, perspective," he added.

The latest proposal calls for a $38.8 million budget, a spending increase of $147,863 over the current year with a less than 1 percent increase in the tax levy. Contributing to holding the line on the budget while dealing with the reduction in state aid are lower costs for debt service, achieved through a combination of lower interest rates and using debt reserves and other state aid programs such as EXCEL. Also contributing are prepayments on technology items and lower enrollment in special education.

Ford said that in addition to retirements, other ways to "bridge the budget gap" include using some of the appropriated fund balance; layoffs, reductions in nonpersonnel areas such as equipment, staff development courses, materials and supplies, and conference and travel; additional state aid, which does not look likely; and increasing the tax levy.

No final decisions have been made, Ford stressed, but added: "There is no question there will be some biting of the bullet."

A public hearing on the budget is set for May 4. The budget vote is May 18.

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