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St. Louis Teachers' Union Presents Early Retirement Plan

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The union representing St. Louis school teachers presented to the School Board last night a plan to offer incentives for some veteran teachers to retire early.

Supporters of the plan say it will save more money than the $23 million needed to balance the district's budget. If adopted, qualified employees who retire this year to get an extra 5% for their last year of work. That extra money would be paid out over the next two years.

The goal of early retirement plans is to get longer-serving workers, who usually have a higher salary after years of service, off the payroll. That would free up money for younger, lower-earning workers.

Teachers' union president Mary Armstrong says some of the cost savings could even go back to current employees. "There are savings in salaries that will help defray the deficit, but we're also having a savings in benefits that we would say, should be targeted towards improving salaries for the next fiscal year," Armstrong said Tuesday.

Armstrong says about 600 union workers would be eligible. Those whose age plus their years of service total 85 could retire June 30, as well as those at least 60 years old with at least five years of service.

Armstrong says while employees would not get their pension immediately, they would receive an $8,000 credit this year. "So it would mean an increase in pension payments, although the deferred amount to get them to retire would be given over the next two years, half of it would be in July 2005 and the second half would be in July 2006."

The school board could vote on the plan next month.

Board member Vince Schoemehl walked out of last night's meeting after repeated criticism from the audience. One person had called for corporal punishment for some board members.