Enough is Enough

A few months ago, we wrote about town officials’ “golden parachutes,” negotiated deals that allow high ranking officials to leave office but continue to collect their salary, receive medical benefits, and get other perks. We noted that plenty of taxpayers who don’t work for the public don’t use their job interview to negotiate their last day of work and beyond.

On page 1 of this week’s edition of the Tri-Town Times, we are running an article about the Hampstead School District’s retirement incentive program. Under that program, teachers who are at least 55 and have put in at least 15 years in the district are entitled to a lump sum payment of 1 ? percent of the employee’s final year salary, multiplied by the number of years they’ve worked in the school district, to a maximum of 30 percent this year, 35 percent next year, and 40 percent in 2016-17.

The district has the right to restrict the incentive to no more than five people if it so chooses.

Theoretically, that encourages higher paid teachers to retire and teachers with less experience and thus a lower salary to come on board.

We know private industry may offer buyouts to senior employees when it’s downsizing – but not when it’s business as usual. When people retire, it should be for reasons that involve personal choice, not because of a hefty payout.

And payouts at taxpayer expense are just not the way the world works for most of us, including most of us who have to pay that bill. Hampstead is far from alone in this process.

It’s not uncommon for school staff to note that they will take home more money in retirement than when they went to class every day. And we ask again, how many of us can expect that? If that were the case, all those ads geared to getting Baby Boomers to save more for retirement would be a waste of effort.

The problem is not that some people make out like bandits in retirement. The problem is that taxpayers are shouldering that burden, along with every other rising cost in their town and school budgets, even as union contract negotiating does not start with the basics, but instead builds on the benefits that have been around for ages.

When is enough enough? Or too much? We think that point has long since passed. We are repeatedly told that much of the budget can’t be changed because it’s personnel costs. Perhaps rather than cutting staff to make a point, negotiators could come to the table to focus on what’s fair and equitable – not just among teaching staff, for example, but for all taxpayers as well.

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