LaFayette, NY – Former superintendent of schools LaFayette is pursuing a compensation plan once touted as creative and win-win for taxpayers and their senior administrator.
Laura Lavine agreed to lead the LaFayette Central School District in 2014 for just $ 30,000 per year. In return, she was guaranteed lifelong health benefits for herself and her husband.
Education officials and experts hailed the deal as a big victory for the district. This saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and Lavine would get free insurance.
Now, however, that deal has escalated due to disagreement over which health benefits should be covered.
Lavine says the district is refusing to reimburse Medicare Part B costs for herself and her husband after turning 65 last year. Medicare Part B is supplemental insurance that covers things like doctor’s visits. His contract says the district will cover 100 percent of health insurance premiums on plans available in the district.
She sued last week in the state Supreme Court to seek reimbursement of $ 8,000 of those health insurance premiums.
In an email to Lavine, Superintendent Jeremy Belfield said Lavine was not eligible for Medicare Part B reimbursement because she received full premium coverage from the district police, according to documents filed in court. District policy, Belfield said, does not allow employees with full medical coverage to get Medicare reimbursement.
Joined on Tuesday, Belfield said he was aware of the lawsuit and believes the district has followed the terms of the contract with Lavine. Beyond that, he said he couldn’t comment on the pending litigation, but said the district was grateful to Lavine for his services.
Lavine did not respond to requests for comment.
As a retired educator, Lavine was receiving a state pension of approximately $ 101,000 when she started at LaFayette. She had previously retired as Deputy Superintendent of the Clarkstown School District in Rockland County.
State law prohibits a person from receiving more than $ 30,000 a year in public wages if that person is already taking a pension. However, the state grants exemptions which allow public employees to exceed this limit, often called “double deduction”.
These exemptions are quite common. The Onondaga County Sheriff and District Attorney have them, for example.
Lavine, at the time she was hired, said she didn’t want to double-dip. So she agreed to take $ 30,000 a year if the district would pay 100 percent of the health insurance premiums for her and her husband for the rest of her life.
Lavine’s predecessor was making $ 145,000 a year. The average salary for a New York superintendent at the time was $ 167,000.
Officials at the time estimated that the deal would save the district $ 135,000 per year for each year Lavine held the position.
Lavine and the district both defended the deal at the time. Experts said it was an unheard of arrangement and that no top administrator was working for such a low price.
“We were very lucky,” then school board chairman Tom Scofield told The Post-Standard in 2014. “A lot of planets have aligned for us with this, and it will help our taxpayers. save money. We know this is an unusual arrangement, but we believe that as time passes and the pool of candidates for the Superintendent continues to shrink, you may see such things happen more often.
Lavine retired from the district in 2017. She served as superintendent for three years, which satisfied a requirement of the contract, according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, Lavine alleges that the district refuses to pay health insurance premiums amounting to approximately $ 8,000 for herself and her husband.
“The district does not seem to understand that its stance on this issue is horribly punitive for Ms. Lavine, who has been a great friend of the district and has come out of retirement to serve as a superintendent well below fair market value for these people.” . services, ”says the lawsuit.
Lavine ran for mayor of Syracuse as a Republican in 2017, the same year she retired.
As part of the mayoral campaign, she also promised not to receive more than $ 30,000 in salary if elected, like LaFayette’s post. Lavine lost in a four-way general election to Ben Walsh.
After the election, his campaign sued a former campaign manager, Danny Fitzpatrick, claiming he owed money. This lawsuit was dropped last summer.