City workers take buyouts
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY ó To help close a $2.7 million budget gap, city officials asked about 75 employees to consider retiring early, with an incentive.
Twenty-six workers took the city up on the offer.
Their departure will help save the city $2 million in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The city also has eliminated 47 full-time and part-time positions, most of which were vacant due to a rolling hiring freeze. Four city workers have been laid off.
The city has spent almost $22,500 on early retirement severance packages, said John Sofley, the finance director who will become the cityís second assistant city manager. The incentives were paid from the current budget, Sofley said.
The city offered two options to employees willing to retire early:
Severance pay equal to three monthsísalary.
Paid health insurance, with conditions.
While the severance pay option was cut and dried, the health insurance incentive was more complicated.
To early retirees who were not eligible for paid health insurance and met certain criteria, the city offered to pay the employee-only health insurance premium at the same level as an active employee for a period of time.
The early retiree must have had 15 years of service with the city and be 53 years old or 20 years of service and be at least 50 years old.
The city offered to pay the premium until the employee reached age 65 or qualified for Medicare, whichever comes first.
Offering early retirement incentives came as a suggestion on how the city could produce cost-savings, according to a letter Zach Kyle, human resources director, sent to about 75 employees who could be qualified to retire.
ěWhile you are a valuable member of our team, we realize that you have probably been giving some thought to your future as you approach this point and time in your life as related to your employment options,î Kyle wrote in the letter.
He said the city would hate to lose any employee who has dedicated so many years to Salisbury, but officials had to move forward with a plan to offset the projected budget shortfall.
Early retirees received payment for all accrued vacation leave.
City employees are vested in the N.C. Retirement System after five years of service. The amount of retirement they receive is dependent upon years of service and age and varies with each employee, Sofley said.
There is no mandatory age for retirement.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
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