The Petitioner, a former teacher in the Hopkinton Public School system has failed to meet her burden of proving that the MTRS applied the retirement laws incorrectly in denying her request to include the stipends she received during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years for her additional duties as Elementary Math Curriculum Teacher Leader in her regular compensation for retirement purposes.
The Petitioner, Karen McCaw, is appealing from the July 7, 2015 decision of the Respondent, Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System (MTRS) denying her request to include an $875 stipend she received in the 2013-2014 school year and a $2500 stipend she received in the 2014-2015 school year in her regular compensation for retirement purposes. (Exhibit 7.) The Petitioner’s timely appeal was received on July 20, 2015. (Id.)
I held a hearing on April 27, 2017 at the offices of the Worcester Registry of Deeds, 90 Front Street, Worcester, MA. I marked Exhibits 1-12. The Petitioner testified and argued in her own behalf. The MTRS presented no testimony. Each party filed a pre-hearing memorandum. (Respondent-Attachment A; Petitioner-Attachment B.) The hearing was digitally recorded.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Petitioner, Karen McCaw is a retired member of the MTRS. She joined the MTRS in 1976 and taught in an elementary school in the Hopkinton Public School System. (Petitioner Testimony and Exhibits 3-4 and 9-12.)
- On or about February 27, 2013, the Petitioner gave her employer notice that she would be retiring as of June 30, 2015, two and a half years hence. (Exhibit 1.)
- On December 5, 2013, the Hopkinton School Committee met and accepted the Superintendent’s proposal to create a position entitled Elementary Curriculum Teacher Leader. The position was initially intended to be “temporary” for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year. The position was then “voted on for inclusion in the next year’s budget.” (Exhibit 2.)
- On March 20, 2014, the Petitioner was offered the position of Elementary Math Curriculum Teacher Leader for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year. She received a stipend of $875 for performing the services related to said position. (Exhibit 3.)
- On November 17, 2014, the Petitioner was offered the position of Elementary Math Curriculum Teacher Leader for the 2014-2015 school year for a stipend of $2500. (Exhibit 4.)
- At all relevant times, the Petitioner was a member of a collective bargaining unit with the Hopkinton Teachers Association. Neither the $875 stipend nor the $2500 stipend appeared in the applicable 2012-15 collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA did provide that “[i]f there are any substantial changes in the duties of any existing position under the contract, the Committee will negotiate with the Association regarding the possible modification in the salary for such position.” (Exhibit 5.)
- The aforementioned stipends appear only in appointment letters. There is no indication of any agreement by the union. There is no amendment to the relevant CBA. (Exhibits 3 and 4.)
- The Petitioner retired effective June 30, 2015. (Exhibit 6.)
- On or about July 7, 2015, the MTRS notified the Petitioner that it would not include the $875 and $2500 stipends in the regular compensation used to calculate her retirement allowance. (Exhibit 7.)
The Petitioner filed a timely appeal on July 20, 2015. (Id.)
The Petitioner is not entitled to prevail in this appeal. To be considered regular compensation, payments for additional duties must appear in writing in the applicable annual contract. See Kozlowski v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 783 (2004). In the Petitioner’s case, the “annual contract” is the collective bargaining agreement governing her employment. The contractual language therein concerning re-negotiation is not a substitute for specifically setting forth the services to be provided and the related remuneration. Ergo, the stipends paid to the Petitioner for her additional duties are not regular compensation. See also Joan Hamilton v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board and Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement Board, Suffolk Superior Court Civil Action No. 96-3124 (Gants, J. January 22, 2001) and David Ristuccia v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, Suffolk Superior Court Civil Action No. 01-1523-E (Burnes, J. January 16, 2003).
Further, at the time the Elementary Math Curriculum Teacher Leader position was created, the Hopkinton School Committee had knowledge of the Petitioner’s pending retirement. It may be inferred that this knowledge was a motivating factor for the additional payments. Payments rendered in contemplation of an employee’s retirement do not constitute regular compensation. See Stanley Masalsky v. Teachers’ Retirement Board, CR-99-844 (Division of Administrative Law Appeals 2000.)
Accordingly, the decision of the MTRS denying the Petitioner’s request to include the $875 and $2500 stipends in her regular compensation is affirmed.
Division of Administrative Law Appeals,
DATED: January 12, 2018