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School retirees hire law firm, prepare for possible fight to restore LORP
SoVaNow.com / November 11, 2012School retirees who lost their LORP (Local Option Retirement Plan) benefits earlier this summer announced Friday they have retained a Richmond law firm to represent them, a step pointing to possible legal action against the school division.
Mike Wilborne, who retired this year as principal at Sinai Elementary, and Phyllis Jackson, who was at Halifax County Middle School prior to her retirement, issued a prepared press release on behalf of a group of some 100 retirees who lost their LORP benefits. The group has hired the law firm of Blackburn, Conte, Schilling & Click, P.C. to represent them.
The law firm has made written contact with each of the members of the Halifax County School Board, as well as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon, and each member of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, according to the statement issued by the group.
They said they have received no response to any of those letters, which went out early last week.
Contacted Friday for her reaction, Herndon declined comment.
The retirees’ group noted that in many instances, the decision by school employees to leave their jobs hinged on the promise of early retirement incentives, the cost of which were approved in the current year budget by the School Board.
“The program was presented to the retirees as part of a retirement package and over one hundred employees have prematurely retired in reliance on the [School] Board’s promise to provide LORP benefits over the last few years,” reads the group’s statement.
“Funding for the LORP program was included in the 2012-13 school budget passed on March 30, by the Board. In addition, the Board entered into a contractual agreement with each LORP participant for the 2012-13 school year,” the press release states.
Elimination of the program was approved by the School Board following a two-hour closed session on Tuesday, July 24. Since that time, LORP participants have appealed to the school trustees to reverse their decision, to no avail.
Receiving no favorable action by the School Board, LORP participants said they decided to seek legal representation.
Wilborne said the group has had no trouble securing representation and members are very pleased with their choice of attorneys.
“The community is very much behind us, as are our LORP members. We trust our school board and their attorney will work cooperatively with our attorneys to resolve this issue,” he said.
Herndon most recently addressed the LORP controversy on Oct. 30, issuing a point-by-point written response to an open letter penned by David Strom of South Boston, whose wife was a LORP beneficiary.
Citing the $1.7 million estimated cost of the program, Herndon said it collapsed “under its own weight” and was out of line with practices of other school divisions, which either do not offer early retirement incentives or have much more limited programs.
Under LORP, school personnel who left after 20 years of service could continue to receive 20 percent of their salary provided they perform tasks — such as substitute teaching — at commensurate levels. The school division also continues to pay for health insurance of participating LORP retirees, a benefit that was unaffected by the cancellation of the rest of the retirement incentives.
Herndon, in her Oct. 30 letter, noted that Halifax is the only division to offer health insurance benefits to LORP beneficiaries; Pittsylvania County, which has the closest equivalent incentive plan, does not pay retiree health costs, she noted.
Herndon’s critics say her cost estimates for LORP fail to account for the program’s overall impact on school payroll. The program was offered to encourage more experienced, higher-paid employees to retire early, allowing the school division to hire replacements who are younger and make lower salaries. Without the payroll savings achieved through LORP, the school division would have had no choice but to lay off employees to close budget deficits that have occurred for the past several years, say LORP’s defenders.
CommentsGood for them! I hope they win. The government is supposed to be run by the people. I thought that with the new supt. things would be different, but I think things got alot worse. Reminds me of that Jones fellow we had here 30 years ago.
- By allpolitical2 on 11 / 12 / 12
CommentsSeems like these teachers, principals, and employees care more about money than the students. More money dose not make a better teacher and they have made theirs and still get state retirement. What is their problem, a lot of people have lost retirement. They want cake, pizza, steak and eat it too. Time to move on or get another job. As i said it is all about the money and never was about the school or students.....tough luck.
- By Greed on 11 / 12 / 12
CommentsMore power to the educators!!! This type of second class treatment is nothing new to Halifax County! This has been going on for 40 years. I am glad some educators have finally said "Enough is enough!!!!"
- By JoeBlow on 11 / 12 / 12
CommentsOh,yes, now we see where the priorities are!! Doesn't matter if the children can not have books. Doesn't matter if they can even get an education. What matters is ME, ME, ME!!! So many say they teach, not for the money BUT for the children. Where is that now??? Let the children have their education. You go on with how others do that their jobs are ripped from the every day with NO benefits and hopefully, just hopefully, the generation growing up now will figure out a way to pay everyone in the world to do nothing except sit back and complain when they can't have what they want!
- By tiredofhearingthemcomplain on 11 / 13 / 12
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