County's retirement-incentive program exceeds expectations

June 22, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Washington County’s retirement-incentive program exceeded expectations, prompting 11 retirements that will save the county more than $160,000 a year in salaries and benefits even after the employees are replaced, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

The program, approved in March by the Washington County Board of Commissioners, offered $10,000 retirement bonuses and up to three years’ credit toward retirement eligibility for employees who retire between May 1 and July 1.

When the commissioners approved the program, Murray predicted 5 percent to 10 percent of the 103 eligible employees would retire. With 11 employees accepting, the percentage has exceeded 10 percent.

“That’s a very positive thing,” he said. “(The incentive) did what it was intended to do — actually a little more than that.”

One employee retired in May, and 10 others are set to retire July 1 under the incentive program, said Delores Hawbaker, the county’s deputy director of human resources.

They included a county sheriff’s office deputy, two detention officers, the county planning director, an environmental planner, an accountant, a solid-waste weigh clerk, a highway equipment officer, a transit fleet manager, the county’s chief construction inspector and a project manager, Hawbaker said.

Additional retirements still are possible, as eligible employees have until the end of the month to decide, she said.

County employees are eligible for retirement at age 60 or 30 years of service for nonuniformed employees, and at age 50 or 25 years of service for uniformed employees.

The county also allows early retirement for employees who are within five years of reaching the required years of service, with a penalty of 6 percent of their benefits per year early that they retire.

Employees were allowed to use the three years’ credit offered to qualify for or reduce their penalty under early retirement, Hawbaker said. One of the 11 employees retiring will do so as an early retirement, she said.

At their June 7 meeting, the commissioners voted to approve hiring replacements for those who retired under the program. The replacements likely will be hired at entry level for their salary grades, while the retirees were generally at the top of their grades, Murray said.

In addition to those leaving under the retirement incentive, the county also expects to save more than $50,000 in salaries from employees being replaced for other reasons.

Twelve vacant positions will be eliminated from the county budget effective July 1 for a savings of nearly $400,000, Murray and Hawbaker said.

All told, the savings add up to more than $500,000 from the county’s personnel costs, Murray said.

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