115 Clovis Unified workers seek early retirement

More than 100 employees have sought an early retirement incentive offered by Clovis Unified School District as officials try to wrestle with an expected budget gap of at least $16 million.

The district board approved the retirement benefit without discussion Wednesday night. The board's approval allows the district to let the employees know the retirement process will proceed.

In September, the district asked qualified employees whether they would be interested in taking early retirement in exchange for financial incentives.

About 1,100 of the district's 5,000 employees were qualified to take the incentive and up to 250 showed up for meetings to learn about the plan, said Steve Ward, the district's chief business official.

There were 115 employees, about half of them teachers, who signed up to take the district's early retirement incentive.

"Our goal is to have no layoffs and reduce expenses," Ward said.

Under the plan, teachers will receive a bonus of 60% of their most recent salary. The bonus would be paid over five years or the employee's lifetime. Other employees who take the buyout would receive 45% bonuses.

Those who have signed up for the retirement incentive cannot back out.

"A good number" of employees participated in the program, Ward said. "Could we have used some more? Sure."

And, he said, the district will have fewer cuts to make when it comes time to begin budgeting early next year.

The district will save more than $5 million on the employees' salaries, decreasing the district's expected budget gap by about a third, Ward said.

When the cost of the incentive is factored in, about $789,600, the district's savings for next year will be about $4.2 million, he said.

In his comments to the board, Superintendent David Cash said the employees, who include some of the district's most experienced, will be missed.

"They have helped make Clovis Unified School District the great district that it is," he said. "It's with sadness we will say goodbye to them."

The district offered a similar retirement incentive during the 2007-08 school year. There were 156 employees who retired at that time. Early retirement also was offered during the 2003-04 school year.