The Bettendorf School Board unanimously approved an early retirement plan Monday night.

The issue: Finance Director Brie Collier brought up early retirement at the Nov. 18 meeting. According to the presentation to the board Monday, the district is expecting 13 to 20 of the 56 eligible employees will take the offer. To qualify, employees must be 55 years or older by Aug. 1 and have 15 years of consecutive full-time service at the end of this school year.

Those who take the offer will receive either a health reimbursement arrangement or annuity of $15,000 over five years, plus a sick day payout of $60 per sick day at the end of retirement. The average teacher's total compensation is estimated at $64,636.91.

Early retirement was last offered in 2017, but between 1999 and 2007 it was offered every year.

Conversation: Superintendent Mike Raso said now was a good time financially to look at early retirement as an option, given the district’s enrollment numbers and upcoming contract negotiations.

Given recent conversations about employee morale, an offer like this would boost morale, Bettendorf Education Association President Mary Heeringa said.

“From a recruiting standpoint, it helps us shape that conversation,” said Heather Stocking, director of human resources. While she said not all 56 employees who would be eligible to participate in the program would take it, she said that if the district needed to recruit more heavily to make up the loss in staff, it would be easier to require new staff to have certain qualifications than it would be to try to get current staff to go back and gain credentials.

Board President Adam Holland and Director Michael Pyevich agreed that while it made sense to approve the plan now, they didn’t want to revisit it as an option every year, because that would then just be “manipulating the retirement age.”

Next steps: More information will be released Dec. 9, and eligible employees will have until Jan. 24 to apply for the program. The board is slated to approve early retirees at its Feb. 3 meeting.