State lawmakers want to change the rules on boomerang employees -- public employees retiring and then returning to public jobs, according to a story by our media partners at WISN Channel 12.
The story featured Racine Unified School District Superintendent Ann Laing, who retired in 2007 and was formally re-hired by the school district a year ago. The story also highlighted how the district has 200 people "double dipping."
And while officials with Racine Unified say they have good reasons to re-hire retirees and people who are "effective educators," state lawmakers say it's not right.
Laing has been acting as interim superintendent since Dr. Jim Shaw retired in the summer of 2011.
“[The pay increase] is due to the very, very comprehensive nature of the superintendent position,” said Bill Van Atta, who was the school board president at the time.
Her benefits package also includes monthly allowances of $650 for a car, $55 for a cell phone and $1,250 from the employer contribution to Laing's retirement.
The district, however, saves money on Laing’s contract, because it does not include compensation for health insurance. It does, however, include dental, life, disability and travel insurances, as well as liability protection; sick leave; paid holidays; 30 days of vacation time; workers compensation benefits and jury duty.
Of those benefits, only life insurance and dental insurance are available upon the contract’s termination; all other benefits are inapplicable, according to the contract.
However, the Channel 12 story highlights a larger problem:
State Reps. Stephen Nass and Duey Stroebel believe many employees retire at the earliest opportunity, fully intending to go back to work in order to collect the two paychecks.
The Legislative Audit Bureau released a report in December trying to quantify the scope of double dipping. It identified more than 5,300 Wisconsin retirees who were rehired between 2007 and 2012 by local or state agencies who were simultaneously collecting paychecks and pensions funded by taxpayers.
Retirees are substitute teachers
While 200 people in the Racine Unified School District are retired and working for the district, 157 of them are licensed substitute teachers, said Stacy Tapp, director of communications for RUSD.
“Some are working one day a week and some are long-term subs, but part of the reason we use them is because they are licensed,” Tapp said.
The district has 1,600 teachers and the hours the substitute teachers work varies from a few hours a month to long-term assignments.
“There is already a challenge to the district to have licensed subs,” Tapp said. “If we lost our retirees, then we would have a really hard time replacing them.”
Tapp said the district does have a policy of hiring retirees to fill positions that are difficult to find.
“It would be nice to have school districts and educators have a voice in this,” Tapp said. “It sounds like they are going to make it illegal for public institutions in general to re-hire retirees and that is going to be very difficult for us."
But Nass sees this as a matter of right and wrong.
"This is a question of if it's right ... and it's not right," he is quoted as saying in the Channel 12 story. "I believe we need to zero out double-dipping. People need to decide whether they are retiring or not."