School employees covered by the city's plan were due to begin contributing 2 percent of their salary on July 1, the same contribution schedule as city employees. However, school officials acknowledged that they had not communicated to nor prepared its employees for that requirement.

In a letter dated March 6, Spencer asked school officials to indicate whether the district intended to comply with the request.

Spencer said city schools interim CEO Tisha Edwards informed the retirement board last week that the district would not be able to have employees begin contributing on July 1.

She said she urged that the "school system act as quickly as possible to ensure equal treatment between city employees and school system employees. "

Victor De La Paz, chief financial officer of the school system, said it is prepared to pay the $14.4 million bill.

He said there were a number of barriers to implementing the contribution system by the July 1 deadline. The school system initially questioned whether the city's retirement board had the legal authority to require employee contributions.

De La Paz said the district is no longer challenging the plan but still questions the motivation behind the board's decision to have the school system and employees split the cost.

He also said that the school system needed to figure out budgetary issues, including how much in raises must be added.

About 120 employees were given 2 percent raises in September, he said. But those employees weren't given the raises in the context of having to start contributing to the pension system, so it wouldn't have been fair to ask them to do so, he said.

Most importantly, De La Paz said, the school system had not given the proper notice to affected employees.

"We need to make sure that our employees are clear about their new responsibilities," he said. "And we just haven't had time to do that."

erica.green@baltsun.com

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