AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee voted 8-5 Monday to recommend a bill that would shift the full cost of paying for teacher retirements back to the state, just two years after the state shifted some retirement costs to local school districts.

Several legislators said they were concerned about local districts being able to pay the retirement costs, particularly given tight budgets in recent years.

“The problem is that many communities are in very rocky circumstances,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth. “And if given responsibility of retirement costs, there’s a very high chance those costs are not going to be covered, and that’s no way to treat our teachers.”

The bill, L.D. 60, sponsored by Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle, now goes to the full Legislature.

In 2013, when the state shifted some of the costs, state officials said it was done to balance the budget in a way that would avoid cutting funds to schools. Before that, the state had paid 100 percent of the costs.

Committee staff analysts said that in 2014-15, school districts paid $29 million under the change, and in 2015-16 are expected to pay $37.3 million, a 24 percent increase.

Opponents, including the Maine Department of Education, said the cost for retirements should be part of a school districts’ responsibility, just as teacher salaries and benefits are a local cost.

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