By Ashleigh Costello

WEST MILFORD, N.J. – New Jersey residents are up in arms after a local school district agreed to pay nearly $500,000 in unused sick leave compensation to 25 retirees Monday.

West Milford Township Public Schools is expected to shell out more than $461,500 for unused accumulated sick leave, with an average payout of about $18,460 per retiree, reports  The largest check is for $62,000 and will be addressed to Peter Anzelone, a former high school assistant principal and supervisor of health and physical education.

West Milford district administrator Barbara Francisco said the payouts were required under the collective bargaining agreements authorized by the board and, for the most part, negotiated by the West Milford Education Association, the local teachers union.

The perk is nothing new for school employees. Most teacher union collective bargaining agreements contain similar provisions. But such absurd expenses are starting to be noticed now that schools are scraping for operating dollars.

“I’m not in favor of that at all,” said West Milford school board member James Foody. “Nobody in private industry gets that, absolutely no one.  It’s a burden on taxpayers that we don’t need to put on them.”

Earlier this year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pushed to allow caps on sick leave payouts for school administrators, after several high profile cases where school officials retired with six-figure checks in hand.

The tough-talking governor, who is often pitted against the teachers unions, has said the only benefit that should be had from unused sick days is the compensation of not being ill.

We couldn’t agree more.

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