News Feature

The Peninsula
Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 27, 2014
New law requires local towns to fund GSA teacher retirement costs

by Anne Berleant

The 2014-15 budgets for all seven Peninsula schools include a new cost—a state-mandated contribution to the retirement fund for George Stevens Academy teachers.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense,” said Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt. “We have no governance authority over GSA…It seems to me that it’s not a cost that should be borne by Union 93.”

The new law, enacted in 2013 to amend §17154 of Title 5 of the Maine Revised Statutes, requires public school administrative units to pay full teacher retirement costs for private schools who participate in Maine Public Employees Retirement System.

For Unions 76 and 93 schools, that translates to $140.73 for each student it sends to GSA. The cost is raising budgets anywhere from around $2,500 to $16,750, depending on how many students attend GSA now and will next year, the two years the statute covers—for now.

“You’ll probably see a bill next year going the whole nine yards,” said Hurvitt.

While the sum represents anywhere from just under 0.2 percent to 0.35 percent of the total school budgets, it comes on top of legislative changes that require schools pay the full cost of their own teachers retirement contributions, a number considerably higher and a cost previously borne by the state.

However, there may be some relief for the private school teacher retirement cost. Senator Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) has sponsored a bill (LD 1657) for the current legislative session that seeks to reduce the teacher retirement contributions to 60 percent, rather than the full funding in place now, and, if passed, for timely repayment of the overpayment for 2013-14.

The bill received an “ought to pass” recommendation by the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, as an emergency bill. Such a bill takes effect immediately after it is signed by the governor.