FORT WORTH -- Fort Worth school district officials hope that 600 teachers and 100 staffers will take advantage of a program that pays up to $10,000 to those who give early notification that they will retire or resign at the end of the school year.
If enough take the money, the district says, it can minimize layoffs and make up for the mistaken overhiring of teachers this school year, which cost $13 million.
Trustees are to vote on the program next week. If approved, the deal would be open to the first 400 secondary teachers, 200 elementary teachers and 100 degreed nonclassroom professionals who submit their notifications. Submissions would begin at 6 a.m. Wednesday at the board conference room, 2903 Shotts St.
The incentive program could cost the district up to $4.6 million but save $15 million to $17 million annually, Chief Financial Officer Hank Johnson said.
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Its success would depend not only on getting enough resignations but also on getting them from the right kinds of employees.
"We'd like to say no layoffs, but we can't guarantee that because we have to get them all to fall in the right place," Johnson said.
For example, he said, the district plans to replace all elementary teachers who leave but only about half the secondary teachers. And if teachers or degreed staffers depart from positions that must be filled -- such as a math teacher or principal -- the district may have to make additional cuts to compensate.
The bonuses will decrease as various deadlines pass:
Those notifying by Feb. 29 will receive 10 percent of their base salary, with a cap of $10,000.
Those notifying from March 1 to March 21 will receive 5 percent of their base salary, with a cap of $5,000.
Those notifying from March 22 to March 30 will receive 2 percent of their base salary, with a cap of $2,000.
Last year, the district dangled bonuses of $500, then $1,000 and finally $5,000 to get employees to come forward, and it extended the deadlines. But it still fell short of the goal.
Norman Quigley, president of the Fort Worth Educators Association, worries that not enough teachers will take advantage of this year's bonus program, either. The offer could entice those considering retirement now, but Quigley said it likely won't persuade someone who doesn't have another job lined up.
"If you are eligible for retirement, I think this is a great incentive so that other employees can maintain and provide for their families," Quigley said. "But the economy is still tough enough that others might not resign, and they can't apply for unemployment if they resign."
School officials stressed Thursday that the incentives will not increase and that the timeline is final.
Last year, 334 teachers and 53 degreed professionals -- such as principals, counselors and nurses -- received the bonus. Fifty-nine nondegreed staffers -- such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers -- received a $500 bonus.
The district avoided widespread layoffs. But then officials learned that they had 200 more teachers than they had budgeted for this school year. To pay for them, the district had to take money from reserves.
District officials expect about a $55 million shortfall this fiscal year. Johnson said the district is looking to cut $20 million to $30 million from its budget.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700