New DeKalb school retirement benefit to be proposed

DeKalb County School District officials could vote next week to add a retirement benefit for employees, officials said Tuesday.

The 403(b) plan would see the district match employee contributions up to 2 percent of their salary for employees with at least five years of service. An employee would have to be in the program two years to receive matching funds. A vote is expected during the DeKalb County Board of Education’s monthly meeting Monday.

About 6,000 employees currently would be eligible. Chief Financial Officer Michael Bell expected less than $5 million would be needed to fund the program for the second half of the 2015-2016 school year.

“It’s difficult to say how much,” Bell said Tuesday, “but we’ve got the money to cover it if everybody were to sign on.”

Bell said the idea was generated after ongoing complaints about the district discontinuing its participation in a tax-sheltered annuity in 2009. That matter is still in litigation, as several employees are seeking class-action status for their lawsuit, claiming losses of millions since the board and chief financial officer decided to opt out of that program.

John Salter, an attorney for the plaintiffs in that case, declined to comment without knowing more about the district’s plans.

The 403(b) plan was laid out in 2014, after former superintendent Michael Thurmond asked if something more could be done to assist employees. “This came to me while restructuring the budget, asking if we had options,” he said. “We had this structured when Dr. Green came in.”

Current Superintendent Steve Green agreed with the idea.

The district contributes to the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia, with about 14 percent of a worker’s salary paid by the Board of Education and teachers contributing 6 percent.

The district does not participate in the Social Security program. “That’s what makes retirement more important,” Bell said.

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