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OPRF scrambles to avoid pension penalties

Board met June 3 to avoid blowback from state's recent pension changes

June 12th, 2018 3:06 PM

By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

A series of changes made to the Teacher Retirement System as part of the state's recent bipartisan budget agreement had District 200 school board members scrambling to avoid being hit with penalties earlier this month. 

During an emergency meeting on June 3, the D200 board unanimously approved multiyear contract agreements for two retiring district administrators who are receiving 6 percent salary increases. 

The budget deal that Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law earlier this month changed the cap on salary increases for teachers who are at the end of their careers from 6 percent to 3 percent. 

Under the new law, which took effect on June 4, the two retiring administrators —Gwen Walker-Qualls, the director of pupil personnel services, and Sara Roodhouse, the head of the fine and applied arts division — would have been penalized because the district would be providing them compensation far in excess of the new 3 percent maximum.

In a statement released on June 3, Karin Sullivan, the district's communications director, said the change to the pension system by the state legislature was "unexpected."

She added that if the board did not take action on the Sunday before the law went into effect, the penalties paid by the district were estimated to be $13 to $15 for every dollar paid in excess of the 3 percent maximum on salary increases. 

District officials could not provide by Tuesday morning a more precise total estimate of what those penalties would be like when applied to the two administrators.

Approving multiyear agreements for Roodhouse and Walker-Qualls would shield the district from being penalized and adhere to the retirement incentive commitment that it made to those administrators well before the new pension change was enacted, Sullivan said. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com