The Westerville City School District (WCSD) Board of Education on May 6, 2013, voted 5-0 to approve revisions to administrative employment guidelines that will cap Board obligations to administrators’ retirement contributions, modify vacation benefits and reduce severance payouts to future retirees.
Incorporating language that caps Board-paid, employee retirement contributions ensures these payments will not increase in later calendar years due to pension system reforms. Administrators are required to pay 10 percent of their salary into their respective retirement system, either the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) or the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio (SERS). The Board pays this amount as part of administrators’ total compensation. Recent STRS pension system reforms will require the employee to contribute 14 percent of his or her salary to STRS by July 1, 2016. By modifying language in the employment guide, the Board has capped its obligation at 11 percent as required in 2013 and eliminates the potential for increases to these compensation costs as the employee share increases in subsequent years. SERS has not yet increased required employee contributions. Should this occur in the future, the modified language will be applied and cap the Board’s obligation at 11 percent for administrators in SERS.
Board members also modified language in the employment guide that governs the accumulation and use of vacation days. Over time, as a result of employee turnover, the new language will reduce the number of unused vacation days that administrators can carry over into a subsequent school year; cap at 36 the maximum number of unused vacation days that can be accumulated; and eliminate administrators’ ability to cash out accumulated, unused vacation days during the school year. The reason for these changes is to encourage administrators to use their vacation days as intended, rather than maintain a system that inadvertently supports the accumulation and compensation of unused vacation time.
A modification to language governing benefit calculations will reduce the Board’s obligation for severance payments to future retirees who have accumulated a significant amount of unused sick leave. Language in the previous employment guide added one day of severance pay for every 10 accumulated sick days above the maximum severance limit of 70 days. With the latest change in language, one day of severance pay will be added for every 10 accumulated sick days above the maximum severance limit of 255 days.
“From my perspective, I think that we’ve taken the appropriate actions over the last several years and this is a very reasoned set of administrative guidelines that reflect our current reality and provides no increase,” said Board of Education Member Kevin Hoffman.
While considering revisions to administrative employment terms, the Board studied contractual data from five school districts on the northern half of the outerbelt that compete for the same employees as WCSD.
Hoffman reminded those attending the meeting that in addition to almost a 10 percent decrease to administrative staffing levels in recent years, administrators have had no increase in compensation for three of the last four years while experiencing other benefit reductions.
“We’ve increased administrators’ benefit costs for a family to the tune of about $5,000 per year last year with the changes that we made,” Hoffman explained. “We’ve taken some significant actions that have honestly been detrimental to the economics and the level of effort required of our administrative staff.”
Hoffman said it is important for the district to remain market-based, particularly when it comes to the employment of administrators, because there is greater opportunity for them to obtain employment elsewhere. He cited as an example two administrators who recently announced that they are leaving WCSD to take a similar job in a different district, but for a higher total compensation.
“We needed to make sure that we were commensurate, or reasonably commensurate, with the types of benefits that are available (in other school districts) so that we can make sure that we have the ability to be in the market appropriately when we have administrative openings,” Hoffman explained.