A unanimous three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s ruling favoring the Cabarrus, Johnston, Union, and Wilkes County school boards in their legal battle with the state treasurer’s department over retirement pay for top school system officials.

The ruling means that the school systems do not have to pay substantial sums to cover the retirement pay for affected school employees. In the case of Cabarrus County, the bill was more than $208,000 to cover retirement benefits for former school superintendent Barry Shepherd. In Johnston County, the bill for former superintendent Herman Croom was $435,000. In Union County, the bill for former superintendent Mary Ellis was $512,000. In Wilkes County, the bill for former superintendent Marty Hemric was $583,000.

At issue is a 2014 state law designed to fight pension spiking among state employees. Appellate court judges agreed with the trial court that the law did not exempt the treasurer’s Retirement Systems Division from using the state’s official rule-making process. Without adopting a rule making the change spelled out in the law, the bills for local school systems were void.