The original lawsuit, filed in 2011 by Elaine Gold and school counselor Amy Shaye, contended the school district breached an agreement that said district officials would give employees two years' notice before reducing contributions to the Georgia Tax Shelter Annuity Plan. Instead, the school district suspended contributions abruptly in 2009, citing a budget shortfall after a 3% state reduction in funding for all Georgia school systems.
The district had annually contributed 6% of a participating employee's salary. During the 2009-10 school year, DeKalb was scheduled to pay $26.5 million into the plan.
Former DeKalb County Board of Education Chairman Tom Bowen said after the lawsuit was filed that the board did not act improperly, adding that the board had the ability to amend its policies.The suit argues, though, that the board voted to waive the two-year notice a year after contributions were suspended.
“Both sides believe this settlement turns the page on this longstanding dispute, ending almost a decade of litigation and further demonstrating the District’s commitment to its most valued resource: Its classroom educators and employees,” Barnes Law said on its website. “The parties hope this resolution allows for our collective focus to be on the critical mission of educating the wonderful children of DeKalb County Schools.”
In 2015, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams ruled the district did not breach a contract, saying there was no provision calling for a two-year notice before reducing the contributions. The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed that decision last year, citing a “governmental promise” that no changes would take place without two years’ notice.
The Georgia Supreme Court issued an opinion last October upholding a Georgia Court of Appeals ruling that the district should have given employees two years' notice before making any changes to the annuity.
The district’s school board voted to opt out of social security in 1978, and currently is one of many across the state that does so. The annuity plan, established in 1979, was an additional benefit to educators and a Social Security alternative. The fund is separate from the state retirement fund and contributions were paid into individual employee accounts, not taxed until withdrawn.