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Teachers plan to sue Neenah school district over retirement benefit changes

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A court gavel
A court gavel

NEENAH, WI (WTAQ) - A group of Neenah school teachers are getting ready to sue the district over changes to their early retirement package.

Two teachers are representing themselves and 256 other educators. They're seeking to restore $60.7 million in supplementary retirement benefits.

The district has long offered an early retirement plan, separate from the state's pension fund. Benefits could total $300,000 or more for each employee.

According to the district, the plan cost taxpayers almost $5 million annually. It also meant the district had a more than $184 million unfunded liability.

Back in October, the school board changed the lucrative plan for qualified employees. The new plan got rid of yearly stipends and health insurance.

Instead, teachers were offered payments of $99,000 or less. That decreased the district's liability to just more than $100 million.

FOX 11 reports the district declined to comment because it involves a legal matter.

An attorney representing the teachers said they are accusing the school board of breaking contractual commitments and promises to staff.

"For decades, the Neenah teachers have been promised this retirement plan would be there when the time to retire has come," attorney Heath Mynsberge tells FOX 11.

In a notice of claim, the teachers say the district used the early retirement plan to draw in new staff to the district, and as a tool to negotiate lower salaries.

"They've passed up jobs, they've passed up other opportunities because they could never make back what they made, or what they would make, with the retirement so they stayed in Neenah," Mynsberge said.

The teachers' attorney says he expects a class action lawsuit will be filed soon. He adds the teachers are only seeking compensation for the services they've already performed.

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