PORTAGE, Mich. - Kalamazoo area school districts won't save as much money as usual on teacher retirements this year because fewer educators have opted to leave the classroom, according to a report in The Kalamazoo Gazette.

While the situation retains experienced teachers in the classroom, it comes at a cost, The Gazette reported.

Teacher retirements are less than half the typical number in Kalamazoo and Portage, The  Gazette said, meaning those districts will not be able to replace teachers at the top of the pay scale with newcomers at the bottom. In Kalamazoo, staff turnover usually generates enough money to offset the cost of step increases in the salary scale, according to The Gazette, but this year the increases will cost $1.4 million while savings will approximate $350,000.

"There's an awful lot of teachers who are saying, 'Holy cow, can I afford to retire?'" Ron Fuller, superintendent of the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, told The Gazette.

Several school administrators told The Gazette that a number of teachers put retirement plans on hold while state lawmakers earlier this year debated a one-time-only plan to boost pensions for retiring school employees. The plan was not adopted.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Some teachers can't afford to retire - and that's hurting district budgets," June 14, 2009

Michigan Education Digest, "Grand Blanc reopens contract," March 23, 2009