Facing a $73 million budget shortfall for FY 2012, Baltimore City officials are encouraging eligible teachers to commit to an early-retirement buyout program by April. Under the buyout measure, teachers with more than 10 years’ experience would be able to leave the system and receive 75 percent of their current annual salary over a five-year period. In a conversation with The Baltimore Sun Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso stated the following:
“It’s a financial benefit for the district to have more retirements in times when budgets are not increasing,” Alonso said in an interview Sunday. “We’re not telling anyone to leave. We are saying if you are somebody who is in a position to leave, this is a set of conditions you might want to think about.”
The schools chief has said the budget shortfalls would inevitably affect all schools, where principals control their budgets and will undoubtedly face wrenching decisions about whether to keep staff or focus on retaining programs.
“Given the size of the shortfalls and the fact that schools are going to make hard decisions, we anticipate a reduction in the number of positions,” Alonso said. “If the number of positions is reduced, there are only two options: surplus or layoffs.”
The plan also stands to be an “engine of savings,” Alonso said. He pointed to the average $40,000 difference between beginning and veteran teachers’ annual salaries. “There’s a tremendous gap,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
According to the school district’s plan, first-year savings are predicted to be between $5 million and $10 million, depending on how many teachers accept the buyout and how many of those positions are refilled. The buyout payments would be made monthly into an investment plan of each teacher’s choice.
Alonso added that it was easy to pitch the idea to the teachers union because “there’s nothing in this that isn’t in the interest of teachers.”