BELLAIRE - Bellaire Local School District Superintendent Tony Scott retired from his post this summer, and school board members quickly rehired him to his old position.
The move allows him to continue to earn the $83,500 a year he is paid as superintendent, and also draw on the Ohio Public Employment Retirement System funds he has paid into during his career.
The practice of public employees retiring but not leaving their government job is common in Ohio, and lawmakers could look at legislation to curb "double-dipping" this fall.
School personnel "are entitled to retirement after 30 years," Scott said. "And the school board wanted me to come back. I've earned that (retirement). Retirement is something you earn over the course of your experience, and the money I'm being paid has been part of my contract. The district is not spending one extra dime."
Bellaire schools have faced severe financial cutbacks during the past three years, and the number of administrators in the district has been cut from nine to four - the three building principals and Scott in the main office, he said.
"Who do you think is picking up the extra work?" Scott said of the four administrators. "Retirement is something people earn - it has nothing to do with salary. My salary hasn't changed. But with the amount of administrators we've cut, somebody still has to do the work."
House Bill 388, introduced last year by Ohio Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Tiffin, seeks to amend the rules for public employee retirement in the state, and curb the practice of an employee's retiring then being rehired and receiving benefits.
It currently sits before the House Committee on Health and Aging.
Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, said he has heard from leadership the measure could come up for discussion this fall.
Double dipping "is a problem in Ohio when it comes to fairness and cost," he said. "The general public really understands this issue. People retire, then they go back to work the next day. It's egregious. If they want to retire, they should retire.
"The system needs new blood periodically. When that person who retires is rehired, it denies that opportunity to someone else. Clearly institutional knowledge is valuable, but we don't want to pay for it twice. I don't bemoan people who are making themselves available, but it is not the most cost effective."
Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, said he doubts legislation pertaining to double dipping will pass the Ohio General Assembly as many members - including many in leadership positions - are themselves drawing multiple government salaries.
As an example, he pointed to House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina. Batchelder has been an adjunct professor at Cleveland State University Levin College of Urban Affairs, a Medina County Common Pleas Court judge and a judge with the 9th District Court of Appeals. Now retired, he is serving his second stint in the Ohio House.
"Something has been introduced to curtail double dipping, but many in the Legislature are actually engaged in that practice," Gentile said. "That leaves me wondering whether they will actually get serious and do something. ... I'm certainly sensitive to challenging times we have ... and how some can view these practices as cause for concern."
He added for now, Ohio leaders need to focus on maintaining the benefits due workers "who played by the rules "and believed they would draw on a defined benefit plan when they retired.
"I know it's an issue when people - usually school superintendents - retire and are rehired, but this can be a savings for a lot of entities," said Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire.
He added no hearings are yet scheduled for HB 388 in the House.
"But we are probably going to vote in September on a bill pertaining to retirement systems, to make sure they are solvent," Cera said.