2-day retirement of B. B. sup't adds $200K on top of his salary
Diamond criticizes double standards of school board's 'yes' to double dipping
Although the Blind Brook Board of Education approved a four-year superintendent's contract in October 2012, there was still a formality the school board needed to see through: accepting William Stark's resignation, effective June 30. Blind Brook, however, will not be getting a new superintendent, as the board also passed a resolution reappointing Stark as the superintendent on July 3.
The reason for the kooky two-day interruption between Stark's old and new contract is so he can retire and begin receiving his pension payments.
"We're saving tens of thousands of dollars 'cause we're not paying into a pension like we would on a large salary," said Board of Education President Glen Schuster at the school board meeting on June 3.
As reported in the Westmore News in October, the district will not have to pay into the New York State Common Retirement Fund on behalf of Stark. Stark's initial five-year contract expires on June 30, 2013, with the new contract kicking in on July 3, 2013 and continuing until July 2, 2017, with a starting salary of about $260,000. Because of this, the district will not have to pay approximately 15% of his salary into the pension plan, which this year amounted to about $37,000.
"The more strain that there is on that pension fund, the more that has to come out of taxpayers' pockets every year," said school board member Jeff Diamond on June 3.
In October Diamond was the lone "no" vote against the four-year contract. One of his main reasons for opposing it was "double-dipping," when public employees simultaneously receive a taxpayer-funded pension and a taxpayer-funded salary. At the Board of Education meeting on June 3, he was once again the only school board member to vote against the resolution accepting Stark's resignation and then reappointing him.
"This board often complains about Albany and how Albany shirks its responsibilities, creates unfunded mandates, passes costs to others like the schools and municipalities rather than accepting the responsibility of the cost of their own actions," Diamond said. "Now we are just like Albany where our narrow self-interest trumps the best interest of the greater good."
He argued that just because it is legal for the school board to take this action does not make it right.
"At the local level, the Blind Brook Board of Education is enabling the use of a loophole for something that taxpayers and voters disapprove of very widely," Diamond said.
There are clear savings for the taxpayers in Blind Brook, countered board member Dan Savitt.
"I think we would be biting off our nose to spite our face by not taking advantage of this and the fact that it is available to us and to our taxpayers to have the amount of savings which we are," Savitt said. "We would probably be lacking in our fiduciary duty, I know which, Jeff, you're so strongly always advocating, to not take advantage of this."
Hiring retired employees is common practice in New York, and Blind Brook has done so in the past, said board vice president Nancy Barr.
"I agree Albany has a lot
policies that don't make so much sense, but we are fishing in the same ocean as everybody else, all the other school districts in New York and Westchester County, and that is the way it works," she said. "I think in addition to the money that we will save, which I believe is about $200,000 over the next four years, we also are able to keep a very experienced and a very excellent superintendent and we're able to keep the district moving forward without having to start a whole big search and start changing things from the top down again. So it's not even just about the money."
"New York State taxpayers are paying for his pension. At the same time it's just also important in the same paragraph to articulate the tens and tens of thousands of savings that Blind Brook is getting with this contract," Schuster said. "By voting 'no' you're voting in favor of paying $150,000 additional if this was not to have worked out because that's what the savings is."
Although Diamond said the district would only be saving about $10,000 to $15,000 a year during the meeting, he later changed that to more than $30,000 a year, but quickly added that New York State taxpayers are still indirectly paying Stark about $200,000 each year via the pension fund. If all school districts started double-dipping, pension costs, which are already extremely high, would be truly enormous, he said.
Barr, Savitt and Schuster voted in favor of the resolution with Diamond dissenting. Sheri Zarkower was not present for the vote.