Maquoketa schools will offer an early retirement incentive to offset potential budget shortfalls.

The school board voted Jan. 2 to offer an early retirement incentive of 75 percent of the retiree’s salary, spread out over three years.

Last year only one teacher and a handful of other staff took an early retirement incentive of 50 percent of salary spread over two years.

“If we offer more … we might get a larger pool,” said school board member Lenke Carson.

Early retirement can allow a school district to hire new teachers at a lower salary, resulting in savings for the district, even after paying out the incentive. Early retirement incentives are viewed as an financially stabilizing alternative to pink-slipping teachers when districts face a possible budget shortfall.

Maquoketa saw a dip of about 30 students this year in certified enrollment, which is the number of resident students attending school in the district. Students from other districts attending school in Maquoketa made up most of that difference, so the actual drop in students (and funding) is relatively minimal.

Superintendent Chris Hoover told the Sentinel-Press in October that the school district uses certified enrollment in projections because resident student numbers are a surer bet than out-of-district students. Another complication for Maquoketa, however, is that many students transfer in and out of the area each year.

The school board will set a limit on the amount of early retirement incentives to be paid out, from the school’s management fund. On the first day it is offered, applicants’ names will be drawn from a hat at the end of the day.

Sign-up will then continue period of time, with additional applicants following a first-come, first-served basis.