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Hallsville ISD superintendent says no double dipping

By Christina Lane
June 16, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Hallsville ISD's superintendent finalist said this past week that "The phrase 'double dipping' is a perception but not a reality."

Jim Dunlap, who retired in 2003 as Hallsville's superintendent, is set to return to the position full-time in a couple of weeks, pending school board approval of his contract after a 21-day waiting period that started June 11.

As a retire/rehire, Dunlap is eligible for benefits under the Teacher Retirement System while drawing a salary from the school district.

However, legislation adopted in 2011 prevents Hallsville ISD taxpayers from bearing the burden of a penalty or surcharge that districts that rehire employees who retired after 2005 incur.

"Cost analysis studies showed that this rule change would have no impact on the financial integrity of the Teacher Retirement System," said Dunlap, who has been acting as the district's interim superintendent since May 2011. "So the negative financial impact of 'double dipping' into the system is not an issue. The impact on taxpayers is not an issue. The specific impact on Hallsville ISD taxpayers is not an issue."

According to the Teacher Retirement System, districts are required to make contributions to the system on behalf of a rehired retiree. For the 2011-12 school year, districts paid 12.4 percent of the rehired retiree's salary into the system. However, because of legislation initiated by the Texas Classroom Teacher Association, this surcharge is not required for employees who retired before Sept. 1, 2005 - such as Dunlap.

"The Texas Teacher Retirement System is widely accepted as perhaps the most efficient, best-run retirement system in the nation," Dunlap said. "Investment returns for the system have for years been phenomenal and well above the market yield. The system is financially sound. Actuaries do very detailed and careful analyses of every rule and every piece of legislation. No rule change or legislation is enacted without a cost impact study."

Under the system, retirees can return to work after a minimum 12-month break in employment. Employees who retired after Jan. 1, 2011, can also return to work part-time after a one month break in service.

Like Hallsville, the Longview ISD school board recently rehired retired Superintendent James Wilcox. Wilcox retired at the end of 2011 and was rehired as an interim superintendent in February.

Because he retired at the end of the year, Wilcox receives retirement benefits from the Teacher Retirement System in addition to his salary from Longview ISD. The retirement check is money Wilcox paid into the system during his years of employment before retiring.

His contract with the district shows him receiving an annual salary of $103,750 from Longview ISD. The district also pays him a $250 monthly travel stipend and pays $2,000 monthly into his annuity. As a permanent superintendent, Wilcox earned $207,500 annually and received $550 per month for travel expenses.

However, because of the legislation regarding the Teacher Retirement System, Wilcox can only be considered part-time because he did not retire before Jan. 1, 2011, and because he did not have a minimum 12-month break in service.

Dunlap will be a full-time superintendent.

With regard to rehiring personnel, Dunlap noted that private industry does it on a regular basis and said fewer people are entering education as a profession.

"Whether teachers, custodians, principals, or superintendents, the advantages of years of experience, appropriate levels of energy for the job, passion for the work, are all considerations school districts should use in making hiring decisions," Dunlap said. "Who is best for the job? Who has the best track record of performance? This decision should be made by the elected representatives of the people."

Hallsville ISD Board President Jason Petersen said trustees selected Dunlap for the job because of his leadership and "wealth of knowledge."

"As the district continues to navigate through these changing environment times in education, Jim understands the values of this community and will be a great leader for the district," Petersen said.

Dunlap said he realized there would always be those who disagree with decisions made by the school board.

"For those, no amount of explanation will satisfy," he said. "The elected school boards are chosen to make decisions they feel best represent the will of the majority of the people."



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