Southwestern Illinois College is losing nearly 250 years of experience after 12 top officials took advantage of a voluntary retirement program the college offered at a cost of $461,971.
The voluntary retirement program was offered to employees as a way “to reduce the size and cost of SWIC’s work force,” according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act.
SWIC President Georgia Costello said in a statement: “While these dedicated professionals will be missed, as is the case with every annual retirement cycle, we appreciate each one has worked to ensure a smooth transition involving their duties and responsibilities.”
Voluntary retirement was offered to all eligible administrators: those age 55 and older who have eight years participation in the State Universities Retirement System; age 62 with five years, or those with 30 years of service, regardless of age, said Mike Fleming, vice president of marketing and institutional advancement.
As part of the program, individuals were offered “a lump-sum payment equal to 40 percent of the annual base salary” of the employee’s current contract to be paid within 65 days of the separation date or “two lump-sum payments equal to a total of 45 percent of the annual base salary” of the employee’s current contract to be paid in January 2017 and January 2018, according to information obtained through a FOIA.
SWIC had 38 administrators eligible for the program and 12 of them applied, Fleming said. Three of the 12 opted for one-time payments, according to Fleming.
The following people opted to retire through the program:
▪ Laurie Bingel, dean of Learning Resources.
▪ Geoff Barratt, director of Auxiliary Services.
▪ Ken Turner, director of Computer Support Services.
▪ Sherry Favre, director of Human Resources.
▪ Vicki Whitener-Lepanto, GED director.
▪ Sherri Patterson, director of Institutional Research.
▪ Brenda Boggs, literacy coordinator.
▪ Deb Alford, dean of Success Program.
▪ Mike Reed, Red Bud campus executive director/associate dean.
▪ Mark Green, director of public safety.
▪ Lon Feuerhelm, database administrator/production operations manager.
▪ Jody Lauf, director of Community Education.
The highest lump-sum payment went to Reed, who has served for 25 years, at $52,627. The lowest lump-sum payment went to Whitener-Lepanto, who has served nine years, at $23,720.
It’s unclear how many of the positions will be filled. Positions will be refilled at lesser incoming salaries or those duties will be reassigned, according to college officials.
The retirements through the voluntary program were approved by the SWIC Board of Trustees at its meeting last month. The retiring dates for the employees varied. Some retired on Oct. 31 while others retired on Nov. 30. Some have yet to retire; the remaining employees will retire on Dec. 14 or Dec. 15.
The 12 individuals who took advantage of the voluntary retirement program earned a collective salary of more than $1 million. The highest annual salary of the retiring individuals was earned by Reed at $116,950. The lowest annual salary of the retiring individuals was earned by Whitener-Lepanto at $59,889.
The SWIC budget for fiscal year 2017 is $60.97 million, which is down from $66.32 million in fiscal year 2016.
SWIC Vice President for Administrative Services Bernie Ysursa, provided the following statement regarding SWIC’s finances: “For the past several years the college has continuously made ‘right-sizing’ adjustments to cover financial shortfalls. This has included not filling some vacated positions, refilling some positions at lesser incoming salaries, duty reassignments, and scaling back services and hours of operation for some programs. The VRP cost will be recovered within seven months, with projected annual salary savings of $556,000 thereafter.”
SWIC has campuses in Belleville, Red Bud and Granite City.
One retiree’s perspective
Reed, 64, said the incentive offered by SWIC was enough to entice him to retire after serving 25 years as the executive director of the Red Bud campus.
“It was sufficient to nudge me to apply for the package,” he said. His last day is Thursday.
Reed was also concerned about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s commitment to reforming the pension system in Illinois.
What’s he going to miss the most about his job?
“Working with the students,” he said. “I have been able to get to know the students.”
With 370 students, the SWIC Red Bud campus is the smallest of all three campuses, according to Reed.
Sometimes he even knows a student’s parents and/or grandparents, or if they are a non-traditional student, he may know their children or grandchildren.
“We do serve students who have a range of ages,” Reed said. “We have some adult students, and we have some traditional-college age students and some students in their 50s or 60s.”
He’s also going to miss his colleagues, who he described as “dedicated, smart, problem solvers who are focused on serving students.”
“I will miss the people I work with and their dedication,” Reed said. He refers to campus staff as “team Red Bud.”
“We have a tremendous staff, and they work hard to build an environment that is focused on serving students and supporting students; supporting faculty and helping faculty to provide quality instruction in the classrooms, that’s our No. 1 mission,” he said.
Reed is most proud of the students’ achievements. He enjoys running into graduates of the SWIC Red Bud campus when he’s out in the communities, whether it’s at schools, businesses, banks or hospitals.
“I have had the opportunity to see our students, our graduates who are now out in their community working,” he said. “The college has a tremendous impact on the area through our students and through our graduates. They are serving the community and serving the economy.”
“I like to say we change the future one student at a time,” he added.
Reed enjoyed the daily challenges of his position. “Every day is different. There is no routine to the job,” he said. “That makes every day exciting and every day an absolutely new experience.”
Reed, who grew up in St. Clair County, lives in Red Bud with his wife of 42 years, Terri, who teaches in Waterloo.
His wife’s biggest complaint?
Her husband can’t say “No.”
He currently is serving his second term on the Red Bud City Council. He’s also a founding board member for the St. Clement Community Foundation and serves on the board of directors for the Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders, Inc. and the Workforce Investment Board. He’s active in Rotary and Lions Clubs as well.
Reed plans to continue his volunteer work, and perhaps get a full- or part-time job. He also wants to spend time with his three children and three grandchildren.
Southwestern Illinois College administrators who voluntarily retired
Years of service
2015 annual salary
Dean of Learning Resources
Director of Auxiliary Services
Director of Computer Support Services
Director of Human Resources
Director of Institutional Research
Dean of Success Program
Red Bud Campus Executive Director/Associate Dean
Director of Public Safety
Database Administrator/Production Operations Manager
Director Community Edcation
To find out what more public employees are earning, visit the News-Democrat’s Public Pay Database at bnd.com/publicpay.