The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education gave final approval Tuesday to implementing a supplemental early retirement program for 471 eligible teachers in a move to trim about $29.6 million from its budget over the next five years.

District officials said the tally, which was about a quarter of those eligible, signed on before Friday’s deadline, but teachers accepted to teach summer school will have until its last workday to tender their non-revocable resignation. The district previously set a goal of 547 San Diego Education Association-represented teachers.

Eugene Brucker Education Center is headquarters of the San Diego Unified School District. Photo courtesy

The retirement incentive is expected to save the district about $7.9 million next year, which will be applied to next year’s anticipated $115.6 million shortfall along with about $80.3 million in real estate sales and funds from other cost-cutting measures.

“This was 100 percent really a dollar decision — and a good decision for the taxpayers,” Trustee Scott Barnett said.

District officials said early retirement will be beneficial due to declining enrollment and common core standards and other requirements that will necessitate adjustments.

Teachers 55 years of age and older with five years of state teachers retirement system credit, or who are 50 to 54 with 30 years state retirement credit were eligible, according to the association’s website. They were also required to have been with the district for at least five years.

Under the agreement, all of an eligible teacher’s final annual salary is to paid into an annuity over five years, and participants can choose from several payout options.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard a report from financial and government relations staffers on Gov. Jerry Brown’s revisions to next year’s budget proposal and what the changes will mean for the district.

Brown’s May revise reflected $242 million in growth to go toward education, which will be used for higher average daily attendance funding, district Director of Government Relations Martha Alvarez said.

The revisions do not include additional program funding, but continued to focus on non-funded liabilities to the state and paying down the “wall of debt,” which includes about $6.2 billion in deferred money for schools.

San Diego Unified is owed about $74 million dating back to 1998, she said.

Also reflected in the revision was about $74 billion in pension liabilities with the state teachers retirement system, of which responsibility would be shared with districts, Alvarez said. About $47 billion would be paid by districts, $20 million by the state and $8 billion by employees.

That means San Diego Unified’s pension liability is projected to grow from about $6.3 million in the upcoming fiscal year, to $8.1in 2015-16 and $8.3 million in 2016-17, district Chief Financial Officer Jenny Salkeld said. However, the district will not see a substantial change in revenue, she said.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.