Richmond County school board approves revised retiree work protocol to prevent another costly mistake

The Richmond County Board of Education on Thursday approved a revised protocol that clarifies how human resources staff should monitor retirees returning to work so a recent quarter-million-dollar mistake does not happen again.

This year, the district was ordered to pay the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia $241,000 for allowing seven retired employees to work more hours than allowed between 2008 and 2012.

The new protocol requires retirees rehired to be assigned a code in the payroll system to identify them as retired employees. Retirees must also sign a form to acknowledge the boundaries of hours allowed. The protocol also calls for the human resources department to review the retirement system’s requirements and limitations with administrators and bookkeepers annually.

After approving the safeguard, board member Frank Dolan said he believed some employees intentionally deceived the school system.

“This fiasco did not happen by accident, and I am of the opinion there are people in this school system that knew what was going on,” Dolan said. “They knew it was a way to enrich themselves personally, and I think they carried it out … I wish there were a way to prosecute these people, but according to (board attorney Pete Fletcher), there’s not.”

The board discussed this issue privately in executive session but said afterward it took no action on the matter. Board member Jimmy Atkins said he still wanted to know “where the ball was dropped.”

According to the retirement system’s chief financial officer, Steve Boyers, such an oversight does not happen often. The system clearly defines which type of retirees can return to work full time or part time.

The employees who were allowed to work extra hours in Richmond County 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.

According to the retirement system’s standards, retirees returning to a nonteaching position can work only three months in a full-time capacity. After that they can work up to only 49 percent of a full-time schedule or salary.

Boyers said that as of the due date Monday, the school system had paid only $82,000 of the $240,000 owed.

There will be a 7.5 percent interest charged monthly after the due date. On Thursday, Controller Gene Spires said he planned to pay the remaining balance Friday, so any interest would be minimal.

The money will come out of the $58 million general fund, Spires said.

Dolan said the situation was avoidable and will hurt the school district’s already struggling general fund, which has been hit by state budget cuts and increasing expenses.

“We’re going to have to be really creative to get our money back up to where it was,” Dolan said. “I think it’s unfair, and I think it’s shameful and I’m sick of it.”

Richmond County schools must pay $241,000 to state retirement system
Richmond County school district works to replace early retirees
Georgia teachers slow to retire despite looming pension drop
New RCBOE Retiree Policy (.pdf)

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