The Keene School District is denying allegations that it intentionally delayed early-retirement payments to teachers, which decreased their pensions, as laid out in an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the Keene teachers union in August.

The Keene Education Association’s complaint to the N.H. Public Employee Labor Relations Board was prompted by concerns from two teachers who retired July 1 — Randall Burns and R. Scott Hyde — but the document also asserts that the practice is more widespread and could affect more than 50 people.

The association’s president, William Gillard, has estimated that a decision in the retirees’ favor could leave the district owing $500,000 to $1 million.

In a statement Thursday, the district said it’s filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

A provision of the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the Keene School District allows teachers who meet specific criteria to retire early and receive stipends for doing so. Their pension through the N.H. Retirement System is calculated by averaging their highest three years of compensation.

However, the complaint says, the district delayed Burns’ and Hyde’s stipends, which reduced their lifetime pension calculations. Though they retired July 1, their payments didn’t begin until November. Gillard said the delay also meant the district could avoid paying more into the retirement system.

While collecting data, the union also discovered that the district began delaying early retirement payments in 2012 for all of its teachers, according to Gillard. The association estimates 57 people could be affected.

The district wrote in its statement that the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t require teachers to receive early retirement payments on a certain date. The statement also asserts that the district’s practice is “consistent with state law and in compliance with the New Hampshire Retirement System.”

The statement includes that the matter is headed for arbitration Dec. 16 over grievances the union filed on behalf of Burns and Hyde in April. The unfair labor practice complaint is on hold until arbitration is complete and the grievances are resolved.

Sierra Hubbard can be reached at 355-8546 or at shubbard@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @SierraHubbardKS.