Golden Parachute

Last month I asked the question. Would the Loudon County school system's retirement incentive plan be just that or would it turn into a golden parachute?

Golden parachute it is.

At their last board meeting, a majority of the members voted to continue the practice of paying approximately $165 per month toward all qualified, retiring teachers and certified personal's insurance benefits from the time they retire till age 65. Only myself and board member Lisa Russell voted no on the issue.

Last year, myself and other board members learned for the first time that the insurance payment practice was going on. Subsequent investigations could never find when or even if any previous board had actually ever voted to provide the insurance benefit. The investigation did however find that in 2005, the board had voted to provide the insurance benefit payment for only five years or till the retiree reached 65. Unfortunately, board administrators had never adhered to that policy but had continued to pay the benefit to retirees from retirement to age 65 regardless of how many years that was.

Board member, Ric Best, was on the three member policy committee recommending the insurance benefit. During the recent meeting I questioned if Mr. Best should be debating, recommending or voting on the proposal given his conflict of interest, that his wife works for the school system and will be eligible to receive the $165 retirement benefit in a couple of years. Best read a conflict of interest statement then voted for the benefit.

Like most government entities, the Loudon County school system is facing some major financial challenges. With expenditures outpacing revenues, board members continue to talk about making cuts and finding places to save money but continue to vote on spending money they just don't have.

The cost of providing the $165 insurance benefit to retirees for eight, ten or even twelve years is almost incalculable, but it will be hundreds of thousands even millions of dollars over the years.