MPS raises eligibility threshold for full benefits in another step to ensure continued financial stability

Non-benefit-eligible LTE positions also allow retirees to be hired temporarily and not be paid double benefits

 MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee Public Schools raised the eligibility threshold for full benefits for a number of employee groups Thursday night in another step to ensure the district’s continued financial stability.

The change approved by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors would take effect for new hires in certain units starting July 1, 2012 and then district-wide for all employees in the 2013-14 school year, giving current employees and the district one year to plan.

Under the change, full benefits would no longer be offered to half-time employees whose contracts expire July 1, 2012 or July 1, 2013. An estimated 282 employees currently work more than 20 but fewer than 30 hours. Savings are estimated at roughly up to $4 million per year beginning in 2012-13.

Prior actions over the past two years to ensure the district’s financial stability include rebidding transportation contracts (estimated $2.2 million in savings), the use of Six Sigma to ensure efficient operations (estimated $2.7 million in savings), a planned new central kitchen to ensure healthy and efficient meal service (estimated $90 million in savings over 15 years), freezing teachers’ supplemental pensions (estimated $5 million in savings beginning in 2013-14), health care design changes in 2010 contracts (estimated savings: more than $150 million over the length of the contracts) and further benefit design changes set to take effect once those contracts expire. These changes do not jeopardize the quality of the health plans offered by MPS.

“We need to make sure that our district is in the financial condition that will allow us to serve students well into the future,’ MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton said. “Part of our plan is giving current employees and our district one year to plan for the changes. We will be looking at combining half-time positions into full-time ones so that we can continue to offer full benefits while protecting our finances,” he said.

In separate action, the Board approved the creation of “limited-term” employment (“LTE”) positions, which will allow the district to more quickly temporarily fill critical positions while the longer, regular permanent hiring process continues. The change also ensures that if the district place retirees in LTE positions, they would not receive full fringe benefits in addition to district-provided retirement benefits.