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County ESC superintendent to retire and be rehired

The superintendent of the Clark County Educational Service Center plans to retire and be rehired in the same position later this year — a practice commonly known as double dipping.

Stacia Smith has worked at the ESC for eight years and currently makes $112,000 plus benefits. She said the move will save the district about $45,000 per year as she moves to working part time and forgoes benefits.

“This is a way to help out the board and a way for me to ease into retirement,” Smith said.

Smith said she approached the board about retiring because it was her understanding that teachers and school administrators must begin drawing their State Teachers Retirement System pension by the April 1 following them turning 70 and a half years old.

Smith, 69, said she wouldn’t otherwise be ready to retire.

“In my case, I’m too young to quit working. I don’t want to quit,” she said.

However the state has no mandatory retirement age, STRS of Ohio spokesman Nick Treneff said.

“Federal tax law requires those who have already stopped working to begin collecting a minimum required distribution beginning at age 70.5. But members who remain employed are not required to stop teaching,” he said.

When informed of the regulation on Friday, Smith said she was unaware, but would continue with the plan to be re-employed. She said the savings for the ESC remain significant.

She plans to retire Aug. 1, when her current contract is up, and be rehired part-time at a reduced salary of $85,000 with no benefits.

“We will not be paying her insurance. She will carry her own,” said ESC Board President Sarah Wiegel. The board will also no longer pay her portion of contributions to her public pension plan, which they currently do.

“She just thought it was the best way to do it and we don’t want to lose her,” Wiegel said.

Smith will be making more than her current salary when her new pay and her state retirement benefits are added together, but the ESC will spend less. She will be making about $125,000 per year from her combined salary and pension.

The practice of retiring and rehiring, often referred to as double dipping, has come under scrutiny by watchdog groups who say taxpayers are footing the bill for public employees to double up.

“What you’re effectively doing is just shifting the cost,” said Greg Lawson, a policy analyst for The Buckeye Institute.

“If there is a retire-rehire at the same salary, I could see where there would be a fuss about that,” Wiegel said, but the board believes this situation is a win-win. “It would keep her involved and save us a bunch of money.”

School boards pay into the teacher pension system with taxpayer money, Lawson said, so although the local school district might be spending less, taxpayers statewide are still funding the retiree’s pension.

“There is a cost to taxpayers overall the more you do this,” Lawson said.

As of July 2013, about 15,950 re-employed retirees working in K-12 schools, educational services centers and public colleges statewide, Treneff said.

Under state law, school districts must notify the public in advance about potential retire-rehires and hold public hearings. The hearing on Smith’s retirement will be held at 3 p.m. July 15 at the Garfield Building, 25 W. Pleasant St. in Springfield.

Smith’s new contract will be for one year.

“At this point we don’t know what the governor is going to be doing with his budget,” Wiegel said. “It will be a one-year contract and then we’ll see where we go from there.”

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