As many as 75 Depew teachers, administrators and staffers may have a chance to retire early if a new incentive is found to be beneficial in helping the school district to close a projected $2.2 million gap in the 2014-15 budget.

During its meeting Tuesday night, the Depew Board of Education approved the creation of the Separation Incentive Program, a one-time, non-rescindable buyout of eligible employees who are members of the district’s unions – including the Depew Teachers Organization, Depew Administrators Association, Depew Transportation Employees Association, CSEA Local 1000, AFL-CIO and AFSCME – and those employed through individual contracts.

Under the agreement, eligible full-time employees would receive a $25,000 payment, while part-timers would receive $12,500. Employees covered under collective bargaining agreements would still be afforded their benefits, but program participants would waive any retirement incentives, if applicable.

Superintendent Jeffrey Rabey said that the option is one of four the district has to close the gap, which he blamed on salaries and benefits that are expected to rise about $1.5 million next year, decreasing state aid and the district’s inability to raise the tax levy more than 0.99 percent because of the tax levy cap.

“Each year, it becomes increasingly difficult,” he said.

Option 1 called for 15 to 20 teacher layoffs, while Option 4 was depending on the state to send more funding Depew’s way. Option 2 involved settling a labor contract with the DTO, which has been without a new agreement since 2011. The two sides have gone through negotiations, mediation and a failed vote on a new contract.

During the meeting, the board approved a fact finder’s recommendations, which largely involved union members switching to a new, single health care provider and paying $250 per year for single health coverage or $500 per year for family coverage.

Rabey said the union and district both have to agree with the recommendations or they won’t take effect. Trustee Justin Young asked when the DTO had to give its approval to positively affect the 2014-15 spending plan, and Rabey answered by the time the board adopts the budget April 22. Rabey added that the DTO negotiating committee indicated that it will not bring the recommendations to the membership for consideration.

The most favorable choice appeared to be Option 3, the Separation Incentive Program, which would be funded through the Employee Benefit Liability Reserve and not affect the general budget. Employees are eligible if they are 50 or older and have served the district for 15 or more continuous years as of Sept. 1, 2013. In addition, DTO members must be on Step 24.5 or above.

The deadline for employees to submit letters of resignation to Rabey is April 4. However, if not enough employees participate to close the budget gap or if other revenue sources are found, the program will be canceled and all resignations will be voided. District leaders will determine whether the program is viable by April 18. If the buyout is to commence, those participating will retire effective June 30.

The board’s next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, in the cafeteria at Depew High School, 5201 Transit Road.