• Click here to read John Mackiel's contract.
Omaha school board members are considering a new policy that aims to avoid the million-dollar surprise they had last week.
A board committee approved a newly proposed policy formalizing how all Omaha Public Schools employee contracts, including the superintendent's, should be handled.
The proposed policy also details a step-by-step process — and who is in charge of that process — to calculate the fiscal impact of long-term contracts.
Board President Freddie Gray said the proposed policy puts in writing a process that was supposed to be happening but didn't always occur, particularly with Mackiel's contract.
“This is the way the board can respond when we know we have something that is not correct,” Gray told the committee, which approved the policy on a 4-0 vote.
The policy will be considered next Monday by the full board.
Last week, board members were told in a closed meeting that Mackiel would be getting a million-dollar lump-sum retirement payout, with more than 90 percent of it coming from a special clause placed in his contract in 2004.
It's still unclear how the board and district were surprised by the payment owed to Mackiel.
Gray said Monday that two key OPS departments — human resources and compensation and benefits — did not have a copy of Mackiel's contract. The compensation department handles pay and benefits for all employees.
A copy of the contract has been available on Omaha.com's data page since March 2011, when it was provided as part of a World-Herald article exploring superintendent compensation in the Omaha metropolitan area.
The retirement benefit in Mackiel's contract was set up so he could continue to accrue retirement money based on his full compensation. Federal law states that under traditional retirement plans, employees can't accrue salary-based benefits beyond a pay level of $250,000.
Despite Mackiel's telling the board in August 2011 that he would retire this fall, OPS officials only recently calculated how much he would be owed upon retirement.
As a result, the same day the board approved the 2012-13 budget, it also was told how OPS officials shifted funds to cover Mackiel's payout. The shift included moving $600,000 out of a contingency fund.
The proposed policy covers four directives that:
» Require all employment contracts to be filed in the human resources department.
» Ensure that the school district attorney or the district's chief negotiator annually reviews the superintendent's contract with the school board, regardless of whether the contract has recently changed.
» Require that a copy of all employee contracts be given to school board members.
» Require that any employment contract spanning more than one fiscal year be sent to the OPS manager of compensation and benefits, who will calculate the fiscal impact of the contract for future years.
That amount also must be given to the school board in a specific report and provided to the OPS assistant superintendent for general administration to be reported in the district's audited, year-end financial statements.
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