The Richmond County School System must pay almost a quarter-million dollars to the state retirement system for allowing retirees who came back to work for the district to clock more hours than is allowed.
Between fiscal years 2010 and 2012, seven employees worked more hours than permitted while also collecting a pension, racking up $241,000 in pay that must be returned to the state, according to Controller Gene Spires. They were allowed to get less than 49 percent of the hours they worked before their retirement.
To pay the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia, the money will be taken out of the district’s $58 million general fund, which Board of Education members said is already hurting from state funding cuts and increasing expenses.
“It’s a quarter-million dollars that we don’t have,” board member Jack Padgett said. “This is scary.”
Board members approved the payment Tuesday because they said they did not have a choice and would be fined for the amount if it wasn’t paid by month’s end. Going forward, board members said they want to investigate how the oversight was made and who is responsible for allowing the employees to work excess hours.
“Somebody’s got to be held accountable for this happening,” board member Frank Dolan said. “This is ludicrous what we’re being fined for.”
The retirement system allows employees to work for their original school district part time after retirement, according to its executive director, Jeffrey Ezell.
State law lets school systems rehire retired teachers, principals, superintendents, counselors and media specialists back full time under certain conditions, but that law will expire in July.
The employees overpaid were two Title I consultants, one special education clerk, one substitute and teaching assistant, an internal audit clerk, a media assistant substitute and substitute teacher, and a clerical substitute.
Ezell said the retirement system does not have an enforcement arm within its agency to monitor school systems and relies on the Georgia Department of Audits for oversight.
Spires said the school system was audited in December, which is when the overpayment was identified.
After approving the repayment, the board tabled a discussion about a professional personnel retirement policy to next week’s meeting. Board member Jimmy Atkins said reviewing policy is not enough and more action must be taken.
“I want to know who was responsible for not keeping tabs on this, and that person has to be held accountable,” Atkins said. “I want to know the who, what, when, where and how.”