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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

KUDOS TO CANTON BOE MEMBER ERIC RESNICK: RETIRE/REHIRE LOCAL GOVERNMENT POLICY DESERVES A FULL VETTING

It used to be in America that when a policy controversy surfaced, the proponents and opponents on any particular matter would do their homework and come to the public forums throughout the land and "have it out."

Not so much anymore.

Go to any Stark County local government meeting, by and large, they are sparsely attended by the public.  And some really important issues are being considered and decided by public officials in near anonymity.

What happens all too often is that the policy decisions made are not thoroughly thought out and then when the practical ramifications of those decisions come to the fore on implementation; then a huge community uproar is likely to surface.

Retire/rehire is one of the issues that has been thusly decided.  The most prominent forum these days is with public school officials, but in actuality the true forum is all of Ohio and Buckeye State government employees in the context of its public retirement systems.

The real guilty entity - in terms of not having fully and completely vetting retire/rehire policy - is the Ohio General Assembly.

With the disclosure last evening that Canton Board of Education (CBOE) member Eric Resnick (newly elected last November) is putting together a retire/rehire policy for the BOE is great news for the Stark County education community.

Hopefully, the CBOE policy will be put through a wringer washer and will serve as a template for other Stark County school districts as well as districts across Ohio to adopt.

A commenter on The Repository's coverage of the CBOE meeting (Canton Board of Education to adopt double dipping policy, Melissa Griffy Seeton, June 28, 2010) has this terrific observation (quoted here, in-part):
(rino333) RE: Mr. Milligan comment, In the long term, (the retirement system) cannot afford to pay the kinds of dollars that allow them to retire at early ages and be rehired, said Rich Milligan, Canton board member. But you can hardly blame people for doing what the law encourages them to do.
Mr. Milligan, one of two things is going on here. You don't understand how the retirement system works, or I'm grossly uninformed on how it works. (Maybe a little of both) ... .
Rino333 is right on the mark as far as the fiscal/financial mechanics of Ohio public retirement is concerned.

Many, if not most, Stark County board of education members (for instance) do not understand the public retirement scheme of things in Ohio.  Rino333's piece is an excellent thumbnail sketch for board members to get a quick take on how Ohio public retirement works.

However, Rino333 does not appear to understand that the "real" issues with retire/rehire in Ohio is not the fiscal and financial underpinnings.

It is a threefold controversy:
  • There is a public perception that the retire/rehire process is an "inside" deal in which the retiree (exemplified by retiring school superintendents) has cultivated a close political relationship with board members to facilitate their rehiring (without meaningful outside competition).
  • Next, the deal struck with the rehired retiree is not an "arms length" bargaining process.  For the most part, the retirees are hired at their former salary.  Although there is some relief for the taxpaying public on some fringe benefit issues, not enough is being done on the salary front itself.  It should be no higher than 60% of the former salary.
  • Finally, retire/rehire has the effect (conceded by rino333) to keep an infusion of "new blood" out of local government leadership.
Resnick, Rino333 and Melissa Griffy Seeton are to be commended for their work on this very important public issue.

The SCPR believes that as a consequence of the work of the three named above and The Report, the issue is about to get the complete and full public debate that the retire/rehire issue should have.

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