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Hall teachers may get retirement boost
County proposes change in payroll deductions
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The Hall County school system is proposing a payroll change that, officials say, will boost employees' retirement income.

The district is looking at paying the 2,712 employees enrolled in the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia $50 per month toward their salary, with the money coming from a $50 supplement per month the system pays for health insurance premiums.

That means, of course, that employees would have to make up the $50 supplement in their paychecks.
However, the net effect wouldn't be a zero gain for employees, officials say.

"If this amount were added to our salary, our retirement income would increase substantially," said Richard Hill, associate superintendent, in a March 18 memo to members of the program.

Retirement contributions rise as salaries go up, meaning slightly less take-home pay (about $2 less per month for someone earning $4,050 monthly under the new system). But school officials believe that amount would be far outweighed by eventual retirement income.

"A person with 30 years of service would receive from $360 to $425 more each year from TRS for the remainder of their lifetime," Hill said.

Allene Magill, executive director of Professional Association of Georgia Educators, applauded the proposal in an April 3 e-mail to Hill. "I want to let you know that PAGE appreciates any creative process that will put more money into the hands of teachers," she said.

The decision "demonstrates that you value educators in Hall County," she added.

School system officials now are polling program members on the matter. The Hall County Board of Education is gearing up to work on the budget for fiscal 2008-09, which begins July 1.

Program members include teachers, administrators, clerks, secretaries, paraprofessionals, nurses and lunchroom, maintenance, warehouse and transportation managers or supervisors, Hill said.

All employees who work at least half-time in the covered positions must agree upon hiring to be members of the program, he added.

Mae Martin, a teacher at Lanier Elementary School in Murrayville and a Hall County Education Association executive board member, said she favors the proposal. She said the board asked an "independent accountant" to look at the plan.

"We see this as a win-win," Martin said. "It will protect the $600, as it will be in salary and not as a separate line in the budget to be scrutinized annually."

A few years ago, the school board considered possibly eliminating the supplement but decided to freeze it at $50. Martin said the system would benefit from the boost as well, as "it will make our salary more competitive with surrounding systems because the amount shows up in salary for a more direct comparison with other pay scales."

Steven Wang, a North Hall High School teacher and president of the education association, added his praise to the plan. He also said that employees who now decline insurance -- perhaps because they're covered by a spouses's plan -- get no benefit from the $50 supplement. Those employees, in effect, would get a $600 annual raise, Wang said.

He agreed with Martin that the move would make the system more attractive to prospective teachers.
The education association "feels that recruitment of the highest quality teachers is vital to the education of our community," Wang said.

And as "the school system is one of the largest employers in the area, measures that benefit salaries of staff have to also benefit the economic well-being of the community."