PORTLAND — Forty-three public school employees have accepted a retirement incentive that’s expected to save more than $1 million in salaries and benefits in the coming school year.

The workers, mostly teachers, are among more than 200 school employees who are eligible to retire this school year.

On Tuesday, the school board approved the incentive for the 43 employees and extended the deadline to include employees who will become eligible to retire between Aug. 31 and Dec. 31.

Superintendent Jim Morse said many employees who decided to retire were motivated to avoid possible changes in the state retirement system proposed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Under the changes, employees who retire from the state system after Jan. 1 would have to pay the full cost of health insurance until they turn 65, when they become eligible for Medicare.

Currently, until retiring school workers are eligible for Medicare, the state retirement system pays 45 percent of health insurance costs and the retirees pay 55 percent, school officials said.

The retirement incentive offered to Portland school employees provides funding to cover that gap.

Employees who accepted the incentive will get a minimum of $10,000 or 30 percent of their latest salary, up to $20,000.

The payments will be made in four annual installments starting in the next budget year. The exact cost of providing the incentive hasn’t been calculated.

The 43 pending retirees earn salaries and benefits totaling more than $2.6 million, Morse said. He plans to leave about half the positions vacant and replace the other half at lower salaries.

Laurie Davis, a school board member and former district employee, said the retiring workers take with them heart, caring and experience that is irreplaceable.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]