- Last Updated on 08:11 AM 07/10/13
- BY he Gazette-Virginian
It’s still not too late for the Halifax County School Board to do the right thing and reinstate the Local Optional Retirement Program for one more year.
Morally and ethically, when the school board voted without any warning or discussion to do away with the program that had allowed recent retirees to earn 20 percent of their salary at the time of retirement in return for filling in for work at the schools on a part-time or temporary basis, we believe they made a mistake.
The program was designed to pay benefits over seven years, and LORP participants knew “the school board reserves the right to amend or terminate the program when it appears it is in the best interest of the board to do so.”
However, when that last batch of retirees were enticed to sign on the dotted line by the end of June 2012, they fully expected the school board to honor the contract for at least one year, anyway.
On June 28, 2012, school board members deleted the language that “participants already in the program will not be affected by the amendment or termination of the program,” and on July 24, 2012, school board members immediately terminated the program leaving the most recent retirees appalled and feeling betrayed.
By eliminating LORP, Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon said the school system realized a savings of $1.4 million in the 2012-13 school year.
However, others firmly maintain LORP saved the school system money by encouraging its senior employees who were making the largest salaries to retire with those positions being filled by less experienced hires at much cheaper salaries.
After last week when Judge Charles L. Strauss in essence threw the 105 LORP retirees’ case out of court and advised them the route to go would be to file individual breach of contract suits against the system, many have been scrambling to hire their own lawyers.
They have every intention of proceeding to right what they view as the school board’s deliberate action against them personally as well as their livelihoods.
When the school board pulled the rug out from under this group of faithful, long-time employees, especially the last group that fully expected to get benefits for at least one year, in our opinion they did more damage and created more ill-will than any other action the Halifax County School Board has ever taken.
Although it may be a bit painful and take some financial juggling, we believe the school board could acknowledge they made a mistake and reinstate LORP, even if just for one year, thereby saving the taxpayers a boatload of money in future litigation costs.
Granted, all 105 retirees may not file individual suits against the board, but for every disgruntled retiree who does, that’s a lawsuit the school board will be forced to litigate through the court system, which isn’t a cheap prospect.
In the end, the litigation cost burden and financial drain on the school board budget will no doubt trickle down to the county taxpayer.
And the real shame would be that it all could be avoided if the eight trustees would take a few minutes to figure out how to make it right for those whom they have hurt, both emotionally and financially.
Give them LORP for another year with one year’s notice the program will be eliminated.
Fair is fair.