About 15 teachers showed up at the District 65 School Board meeting on June 15 to protest a reduction in their pension benefits, which they blame on the District. Jon Jacobson spoke on behalf of his wife, while teachers lined up behind in a show of support.
Mr. Jacobson said more than 20 teachers who retired in 2005 and 2006 received notices from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) that their credited service years for pension purposes were being reduced. “TRS claims that 170 extra sick days given by District 65 in 2005 as service credit to those willing to retire were illegal under a long established TRS rule,” he said.
Teachers have been told to refund to TRS by July 20 thousands of dollars in “overpayments” during the last four years. In his wife’s case, Mr. Jacobson said, “We are told to refund $5,600 in ‘overpayments’ and it appears her pension check will be reduced $400 per month – costing us at least $80,000 over our remaining lives.”
He added that the District offered extra sick day credit to encourage early retirement in 2004, and said, “Teachers retired earlier than they otherwise would have, relying of the extra year of sick day service credit offered by the District to boost their pensions.”
He asked the District whether it planned to compensate the teachers for diminished pension amounts and whether the District was working out a settlement with TRS.
Superintendent Hardy Murphy said as soon as he learned about this issue, “We began a very thorough investigation and it’s ongoing even now, and we also started to make sure we had even more intensive negotiations to resolve this matter.” He added the administration was in continual conversations with the District’s attorneys and planned to meet with affected teachers.
“We care very much about the impact of any reduced benefits for our teachers,” said Dr. Murphy. “We’re working to resolve this matter as expeditiously as possible.”