Longtime employees in the Gilbert Unified School District now have a May 7 deadline to decide if they want to retire from the district and still be eligible for their unused medical leave buyback.
The Gilbert school board Tuesday night unanimously approved extending the deadline for this school year as district officials prepare for possible staff reductions amid another round of expected state budget cuts. District officials suggested the change.
Administrators, teachers and support staff with 10 years or more service in the district are eligible to be reimbursed for their unused sick days when they leave the district. The program encourages employees to save their medical days and only use them for emergencies.
However, employees are required to give a letter to the superintendent 60 or 180 days prior to terminating employment before they are eligible.
This change gives those employees a consistent and later deadline and more time to decide this school year, said Nikki Blanchard, the associate superintendent of human resources.
“We felt that given the budget situation, it might be an incentive for those that had considered retirement,” Blanchard said. “Now, they can still take advantage of the medical leave buyback benefits.”
Last April, Gilbert district officials initially told more than 400 teachers their jobs might not be available for the upcoming school year. The district was struggling with ways to handle a $27.5 million budget deficit.
Although many of those teachers were offered their jobs back, they went through months of uncertainty not knowing if they would be employed.
Blanchard said the district will still hold to that April 15 deadline to notify teachers they might not have a job next year, despite a change in the law that takes away that deadline. However, district officials are expecting to alert employees “in a more timely manner than last year,” Blanchard said.
“Hopefully we won’t have to do a large reduction in force with the additional staff needed for growth at Campo Verde High School,” Blanchard said. “Hopefully, it won’t be as severe as last year.”
Blanchard said Wednesday she wasn’t sure when Gilbert will make the decision. She also was unsure of how many longtime Gilbert employees might be seeking retirement and benefits from the medical leave buyback deadline change.