The DeKalb County Board of Education is trying to dismiss a lawsuit that, if it goes to trial, could cost the DeKalb County School System millions of dollars.
In 2011, two DeKalb County teachers filed a lawsuit against the board alleging it owes them, and thousands of other teachers, money that has been withheld from a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) fund since 2009.
Plaintiffs Elaine Gold and Amy Shaye, both teachers in the DeKalb County School System, filed the complaint on March 16, 2011.
“When they made this decision they were trying to plug a hole in the budget and their estimation for this line item was $26 million for the 2009-10 school year,” attorney John Salter said of the board’s decision to stop contributing to the fund. “It’s our belief that the termination and suspension is invalid and they should catch up and continue to pay. Now we’re getting into the second and third year of those benefits not being paid.”
In 1979, the DeKalb County School Board began seeking alternatives to Social Security and according to the lawsuit, passed a resolution authorizing an alternative plan and also requiring, “the board of education shall give a two-year notice to employees before reducing the funding provisions of the alternative plan to Social Security.”
However, in 2009 the school board, facing budget cuts and financial strain, voted to freeze contributions to the TSA plan.
“The view of the board is that they acted appropriately given the economic conditions of the time,” schools spokesman Walter Woods said.
Late in 2011, DeKalb County Judge Clarence Seeliger rejected a motion made by school board lawyers to have the case dismissed. The school system appealed that decision and oral arguments are scheduled to begin in April.
The plaintiffs filed the suit on behalf of “themselves and all others similarly situated.” They are seeking to have the suit elevated to a class-action suit but before a judge can make that decision the case must first make its way out of the appellate court.
“This motion and this appeal need to be resolved before we can turn it into a class-action suit,” Salter said.
The lawsuit also alleges the board realized the mistake and tried to “paper over” it by waiving the policy that required two-year notification.
This suit comes on the heels of another lengthy lawsuit the board is involved in against construction firm Heery/Mitchell, which has already cost it more than $15 million in legal fees.