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ELKO – Buyouts totaling more than $458,000 were approved by the school board Tuesday, effectively retiring nine school district employees at the end of the 2019-2019 school year.

The Elko County School Board of Trustees voted four to two to buy out nine employees who had two years or less left of their 30-year contract.

In the final vote, Jim Cooney, Kieth Fish, Ira Wines and Teresa Dastrup approved the buyouts, with Candace Wines and Brian Zeiszler voting nay. Tammie Cracraft-Dickenson was absent.

Early in the discussion, a motion was made by Zeiszler to approve buyouts for employees whose retirement would save the district money in estimated replacement costs over the coming two years. The motion was seconded by trustee Candace Wines.

Three employees whose potential retirement did not appear to result in two years of savings if they were replaced were noted among the Category B buyouts. The calculation used replacement salaries and benefits from an average of teachers hired in the previous year, or a first-year vice principal, or the beginning salary step for the position of a classified employee.

At the start of board discussion, Ira Wines made a motion to amend the first, including all Category B employees. He stated that he understood the district wanted to save money, but that in most cases when an employee requests a buyout, it “seems they’ve got one foot out the door.”

“It’s been my experience when someone gives two weeks’ notice, they may as well pack up right then,” Ira Wines said, adding that the cost to replace the teachers and administrators would be “cheaper.”

“We’ve talked a lot about being fiscally responsible,” Zeizsler said in response to the amended motion. “Yes, I understand where Ira is coming from, but I know these are true professionals and will still be able to do the job.”

Trustees Cooney and Fish each said they supported buying out any Category B employees. Cooney said he also believed that the savings will be greater if the district uses six to seven years to make their estimates, instead of two years.

“I think sometimes our costs are overstated [and] our savings are understated,” Cooney said. “In this particular example, they’re taking the replacement cost on the average of what last year’s hires were.”

Category B employees who are eligible for buyout have two years or less left of their 30-year contract and are under 60 years old. They will be able to draw their benefits without penalty through the Public Employees Retirement System of Nevada.

Seven district employees who were classified as category C employees are over 60 years old and have served any number of years with the district.

Category C employees “can retire without an actuarially reduced retirement,” explained Mike Smith, assistant superintendent.

This year, costs for Category C employees, if approved, would have cost the district $229,382.

The district estimated there would be a savings of $172,700 with a replacement up to two years for Category B faculty and administrators who requested buyouts.

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Courts, K-12 schools & Spring Creek reporter

Staff writer for the Elko Daily Free Press

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