Neenah teachers plan suit over loss of $170,000 retirement stipends

Bruce Vielmetti:

Teachers all over Wisconsin lost benefits after Bruce Vielmetti:Act 10 eliminated most collective bargaining by public employees.
But maybe none lost more than those in Neenah, where hundreds of veteran educators are now headed to court in a class-action lawsuit to try to win back $170,000 in stipends, which supplemented their regular pensions.
District officials said changes to the retirement plan were necessary in light of $185 million in unfunded retirement liabilities.
“Obviously, you care about what your neighbors think, but ultimately you have to look out for your family,” said Tim Hopfensperger, 49, who noted he passed up administrative jobs in other districts because the extra pay over 10 years still wouldn’t match what he thought he had coming from Neenah, where he’s been an elementary school teacher since he was recruited from Germantown schools in 1990.
For years, Neenah’s teachers enjoyed one of the most generous retirement plans in Wisconsin. Many who were hired in the 1990s could retire at age 55 if they had 15 years with the district and get big stipends on top of their regular state retirement, plus health care coverage until they were eligible for Medicare.
The payment was based on 10 annual payments of one-half the starting teacher salary in the district, which last year was $34,319, or about $170,000. Teachers hired after July 1, 1998, had to work 20 years and reach age 57 to collect eight annual payments. Those hired after 2003 were eligible for less lucrative retirement enhancements.

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