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Retire-rehire program not right answer

Boardman Local Schools may be following the letter of the law in their rehiring of retired Superintendent Tim Saxton, but we believe it’s the law that’s the problem.

The program that allows Ohio public employees to retire, begin collecting their pension, and then return to their previous job usually for a reduced salary, requires a 60-day gap between the retire and the rehire.

This month Saxton is taking a portion of the mandatory time off before he returns for the “rehire” portion of the retire-rehire program. In the interim, Jared Cardillo, director of instruction, is serving as temporary superintendent.

But instead of exercising the required full 60-day absence, Saxton will take only a 30-day hiatus and then surrender another 30 days of his accrued vacation time.

While some might argue the deal they’ve negotiated skirts the law, that shouldn’t be the only problem with this arrangement.

According to the Boardman agreement, Saxton will be rehired to the same job he’s been doing, but now at a salary of $91,000 in a three-year contract. Indeed, that’s about $30,000 per year less than his current salary. The reduced pay is made possible largely because Saxton also will start collecting his public pension and rely on his retirement benefits. Saxton described the scenario as a “win-win” for everyone involved.

But not everyone wins with the state’s retire-rehire program.

What about job-seeking Ohioans being denied opportunities to advance into these high-paid positions being filled at high salaries by retired executives?

To be clear, we aren’t picking only on Superintendent Saxton. Rather, we are picking on the way the program is set up under Ohio law. Frankly, we believe the retire-rehire practice, commonly referred to as “double-dipping,” is disturbing at best.

As we see it, retire-rehire programs are set up to allow longtime public employees to bilk the system out of publicly supported retirement funds while continuing to collect a publicly supported paycheck.

This is an opportunity not afforded to workers in the private sector.

Yes, it might sound like a good idea on the surface, but the long-term effects could be devastating.

Who wouldn’t want to receive two paychecks for doing the same job? If state law allows collecting a public pension and a publicly funded salary at the same time, why not do it?

But when these workers begin collecting from the state pension program, they stop paying into it, which some analysts say could result in the public retirement system being depleted inefficiently. As more and more public employees choose to take advantage of this option, it could end up being the taxpayers who are forced to fund these pension plans in the long run.

And at the same time, it blocks other qualified candidates from moving into these positions.

The retire-rehire loophole comes at the taxpayers’ expense, and we believe it should be eliminated.

Until that happens, public officials should do the right thing and simply wait until they retire to begin collecting their pension.

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