Municipalities cautious about retirement sweetener

by Lise Bang-Jensen |  | NY Torch

Local governments are not racing to adopt the state’s early retirement incentive, which would help trim their payrolls while increasing their pension costs.

In St. Lawrence County, officials have advised county legislators to vote against offering the state incentives at a special meeting tonight, the Watertown Times reports.

“Why would the state offer an incentive that costs municipalities money?” asked Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg. “It doesn’t make sense.”

(snip)

“Clearly part of the decision is short- versus long-term consequences–paying 110 percent of salary plus the legacy cost of health benefits,” said Legislator J. Patrick Turbett, D-Potsdam.

Rather than offer the state incentives, Chautauqua County wants to lure county employees into retirement with cash payments (here). Chautauqua’s tiered incentive offers employees: a $15,000 cash payment or two years of health insurance if they retire by August 1; $10,000 or one year of insurance if they retire by September 1; and $5,000 or six months of insurance if they retire by October 1.

According to the Jamestown Post-Standard, County Executive Greg Edwards said the county has “no interest at all in the state program.”

That one, we did our analysis on, and it would cost us a significant amount of money. Our own, homegrown program could save the taxpayers money not only this year, but substantial money going into next year.”

Meanwhile, two large counties in the New York City suburbs hope to trim their workforces by allowing workers to chose either a local plan or the state plan.

In Nassau County, county legislators approved borrowing $86 million to pay for its early retirement plan, which would give retiring employees cash payments of $1,500 for each year employed by the county (here).

Instead of the county plan, county employees could instead opt for the state plan. It offers two retirement options. Under Part A, an employee would be eligible for an additional month of service credit for each year of service (up to 36 months) if they work in job titles specifically targeted for the benefit. Under Part B, an employee could retire with full benefits at age 55 with only 25 years of service (instead of 30). For an explanation of the new law as it affects state employees, see (here).

Westchester County legislators approved a buyout of $1,000 per year of employment (capping at $30,000) to lure employees into retirement (here).

They also capped the amount of accumulated sick and vacation time that workers can receive, which in some cases translates to tens of thousands of dollars. By leaving or retiring by the July 1 deadline, workers won’t forfeit the accumulated dollars.

Last week, County Executive Rob Astorino criticized Democratic county legislators,who wanted employees to be able receive both the county incentive and the state plans, which he said would cost the county an additional $16 million over five years.

A day later, the Chairman of the County Legislature Ken Jenkins said he agreed with Astorino that county employees must choose between the county and state plans (here).

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch, June 14, 2010

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