Ripon School Board members review sick-leave benefit

A request to raise school district employees’ unused sick-leave pay rate last week turned into consideration of the benefit’s merit.

In the end, the Ripon School Board’s finance committee voted 3 to 0, with one abstention, to retain the sick-leave payout, but not before a half-hour discussion about the benefit’s cost, value and necessity.

Ripon Area School District Business Manager J.J. Gutman asked the four committee members whether they would agree to raise by $5 the daily rate of accumulated sick-leave payouts — dollars earned by district employees upon their retirement that may be used for health insurance premiums or medical costs.

Currently, for example, teachers with 15 years of experience earn $195 for each of the 10 days per year they do not use for sick leave. That rate with the same tenure for managers is $175, and $215 for administrators/coordinators.

Dollars to pay for the payouts come from the district’s trust fund that pays for other post-retirement benefits.

Gutman explained that “we’re looking at the benefit as a way to attract and retain individuals in a competitive market.”

He added that the trust fund was 41 percent funded when the district hired him in 2014; it now is at 81 percent, he said, and should be fully funded by 2018.

“I’m forecasting that within the next two years we won’t have to put any more money into this fund because it will be self-sustaining,” Gutman said. “All the interest and dividends that will be earned from what I’ve done to structure this trust fund will be self-sustaining.”

School Board member David Olson questioned whether the district should be paying out sick leave to people who already are being paid to come to work. “Everyone gets a salary, correct? They’re paid if they’re here, right? And if they’re not, they don’t get paid,” he said. “I view this from the perspective that, if I don’t work — and the majority of the people I know don’t work, you’re sick — you don’t get paid. That’s the trend now days.”

... “It’s a competitive market,” School Board member Dan Zimmerman said. “That’s where we’re going with Act 10. We have districts competing with each other. ... If we have something we can say, ‘This is a benefit.’ It doesn’t sound like it costs a lot of money.” ...

Committee members Andy Lyke, Tom Stellmacher and Zimmerman voted to raise the daily sick-leave payout rate by $5; Olson abstained.

To read the entire story, see the Oct. 20, 2016 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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