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School board approves terms to repay state debt

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Early retirees may be paid to give up insurance

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor
CANNELTON – Cannelton Schools Superintendent Alva Sibbitt told school-board members at a regular meeting June 13 he had struck a deal with state officials on delinquent unemployment-insurance payments.

“The (Indiana) Department of Workforce Development is making demand for payment within 15 business days,” a June 6 letter informed the school system. An attachment to the letter showed payments were skipped for September through December 2011, six months in 2012 and the first four months of this year for a total of $53,098.67. Another $7,887.29 in interest and $5,309.87 in penalties hiked the total to $66,295.83.
“I told her we don’t have this much,” Sibbitt told the school board, referring to Jessica Clark, Workforce Development collection representative.
She told him “if we didn’t pay it, they were going to garnish what we get in tax revenue,” Sibbitt said. “I asked if there was any way to not pay the interest and penalties, and she said ‘no, it’s in the Indiana law that if you don’t pay it on time, there’s interest and … penalties.’ ”
“I talked with her and told her we don’t have the $66,000 to pay right now,” the superintendent continued. Clark agreed to allow the school corporation to pay $6,630 by July 15, then $2,235.72 monthly for 35 months, “so at least there is a plan to get us paid up on the unemployment. It’s going to take us 36 months to do it, but at least it’s better than what we have been doing, which is nothing and getting more penalty each year.”
The board voted to authorize Sibbitt to execute an agreement with the state office specifying those terms.
The News reported Feb. 25 the superintendent was working to reduce outstanding debts to the state for unpaid unemployment premiums and to a special-education cooperative and that Sibbitt said he was making extra payments monthly to reduce what was owed. Attempts Friday to contact Sibbitt and Clark were unsuccessful.
Sibbitt also reported June 13 he’d found “that at least a couple, maybe more, of early retirees (for whom) we are paying their insurance premium … are on their husbands’ insurance, as well, so they basically have double coverage. Now, why do people do that? Well, when (the corporation) is paying all but a dollar, it’s no cost to them. If they were paying $2,000 a year, or $2,500, out of their payroll check, it might be different. I had a couple of them tell me they would consider dropping our insurance … I told them if they would do that, I would recommend to the board that they approve any early retiree who cancels his or her medical, dental and vision insurance coverage, that we would pay them an additional $2,000 a year. That would save the school corporation approximately $3,900 for each early retiree (who) would do that.”
He didn’t know how many would take the offer, but “I had two ladies tell me they would strongly consider doing that” if the board approved it.
The board approved a motion by member Jerry Harris “to allow our current early retirees to opt out of the dental, medical and vision insurance, and in doing so, will get an increase of $2,000 in their retirement …”
“And onto what’s called their bridge to Social Security, is what we call it,” Sibbitt inserted before the vote.