School Board retirement re-vote coming Tuesday - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

School Board retirement re-vote coming Tuesday

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By David Carroll



Hamilton County School Board members were told Thursday that they must postpone any potential re-vote on their pension and retirement plan.  School Board attorney Scott Bennett said they must give 72 hours public notice.  They will hold a special meeting Tuesday August 31 at 6:00 p.m.

District 1 representative Rhonda Thurman complained that she was not given prior notice, "unlike other Board members."  District 2 representative Chip Baker responded that she should meet with the superintendent prior to meetings, as other members do.  She said, "I prefer to ask my questions and get my answers out in the open."

District 5 representative Jeffrey Wilson said he could not attend next week's meeting because of a prior engagement.  Three new Board members will be sworn in the next day, September 1st.

Also Thursday evening, the Board addressed the need for an additional 47 employees due to increased enrollment.



CHATTANOOOGA (WRCB) - Hamilton County School Board members voted themselves a retirement nest egg last week, but it's not final.

District 9 Board member Chester Bankston requested a re-vote early Wednesday, and Chairman Kenny Smith announced late Wednesday afternoon that it had been placed on the agenda for this Thursday's meeting.  The meeting was originally scheduled to deal only with staffing changes due to enrollment.

Last Thursday a measure was approved to create a 457 retirement plan for board members. It does not call for school board members to participate in TCRS (the state retirement system.)

The vote was 7-0, with District 3 representative Everett Fairchild recusing himself because he is already drawing retirement as a principal, and District 1 representative Rhonda Thurman refusing to vote, or "passing" because she said she was handed the document only moments before it was introduced for a vote.  The letter from Chief Financial Officer Tommy Kranz to Board members is included at the end of this article.

The agenda item, which was not distributed to the media in advance,  was shared with some School Board members prior to the meeting.  Fairchild, Smith, and District 6 member Janice Boydston are among those who have said they had been briefed prior to the Board meeting by school district administrators.  Bankston and Thurman say they had been told nothing in advance.  Thurman says she was handed the paper and told privately by a fellow Board member, "You might as well vote for it, because if you don't, you'll be on the losing side." She said, "It caught me totally by surprise.  We usually get a few days to study what we'll be voting on.  I think it's pretty obvious why they tried to run this through."

Boydston, who served 17 years on the Chattanooga City School Board and is finishing her12th year on the Hamilton County School Board, would stand to gain the most from the retirement plan.  Her 29-year payment would amount to almost $22,000. 

Newly elected District 8 representative David Testerman, who will be sworn in on September 1st, told Eyewitness News that the item should have been brought before the Board next month, rather than "voted on by Board members who are on their way out the door."

Several Board members told Eyewitness News Wednesday that they had been inundated with calls and e-mails since news of the vote had been reported in the media on Tuesday.  When asked why it took five days for details of the vote to be reported, Thurman said, "Some Board members and administrators didn't want it to get out, and that's why they did it at the last minute, at the beginning of the meeting, hoping no one in the media or public would pick up on it.  And the rest of us didn't really have time to find out what it was all about until the weekend."

Hamilton County Education Association President Sharon Vandagriff released this statement to Eyewitness News:

"Two important financial items were voted on last Thursday. One passed, and one failed. The one that passed provided a pension to Board members which added cost to the district budget. The vote that failed would have secured a strong health care package for all district employees with a savings to the district. Board members are valued for their service-educators should be valued too!"


Here is the item from CFO Tommy Kranz which was added to the agenda just prior to last Thursday's meeting:

To: School Board Members
      Dr. Jim Scales
"Current regulations allow School Board members to participate in the following two benefit programs:
1. Health insurance
2. Retirement
Offering these two benefit programs provides an additional enticement for individuals to serve on the School Board. 
Today, School Board members are offered the opportunity to participate in the School District's health insurance program.  School Board members are considered to be a classified employee in determining the terms and conditions of their participation in the plan.
In the early 1970's the School Board was given the opportunity to participate in the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) under the same terms and conditions of any School District classified employee.  Today the system pays 14.94% of an employee's annual pay to TCRS.  The actual percentage is adjusted every two years based on the actuarial study.
The County Commission some time ago made the decision to create their own retirement plan.  Contributions to the retirement plan are made by County Government and are based on a fixed percentage of the commissioner's annual pay.  Today that percentage is 2.5%.
If a decision is made to participate in a retirement plan, the administration requests consideration of creating a plan specific for School Board members.  The Administration believes that this move would be easy to administer and would provide a greater enticement to the School Board members.  The Administration is requesting approval to create a 457 Plan.  Under this plan, the Administration would contribute a fixed annual amount, say $750, to the individual School Board member's 457 Plan account. Contributed funds would be vested at the time they are deposited into the account.  In addition, prior year contributions would be made for every year an individual has served on the School Board for any School Board member as of August 1, 2010.  Estimated annual cost of the plan is $6,750.
The Administration requests School Board approval to continue offering the health insurance plan and the creation of a retirement plan for School Board members. 
If anyone should have a question, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thanking you in advance for your consideration of this request." 
Thomas Kranz
Chief Financial Officer

The meeting will be held in the Board Room at 3074 Hickory Valley Road at 5:00 p.m.

Eyewitness News will have a crew at the meeting for the vote. Stay with for the latest on this story.

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