Hartford Retirement Program To Help Offset Deficit
December 01, 2010
The city hopes to save roughly $1 million with a voluntary retirement incentive program in which 30 employees have opted to participate.
The savings would help offset a projected $10 million shortfall for the current fiscal year, said David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer.
Some of the vacated positions will be eliminated, and others may remain unfilled for some time, which could mean more savings in the next fiscal year, Panagore said.
Employees who applied for the program include some high-level officials, such as Treasurer Kathleen Palm Devine, Budget Director Rick Galarza, Assistant Fire Chief Michael A. Parker, Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson and Assessor Lawrence LaBarbera. Terms of their retirements require approval by the city's pension board.
"It's not what I'd like to do. Our city is lean already," Mayor Pedro Segarra said, "but we really don't have another option, unless we want to do layoffs."
Under the program, departing employees can choose to receive four additional years of pension credit or additional years of free medical coverage, Palm Devine said. The terms vary depending on the position. The program was extended to about 60 employees who are not members of a union.
The retiring workers' last day would be Dec. 31 unless given a deferral by the mayor. Department heads have five days from the time they apply for the program to request deferrals for themselves or their employees. Segarra has up to seven days to approve or reject a request once it's received.
"Several folks have asked for a deferment," Segarra said. "The requests are being analyzed to see what would be a suitable period of time for transitioning."
At least five of the positions would need to be filled immediately, Panagore said, including the treasurer's job. It could take 30 days to six months to find replacements for others.
While some of the jobs have salary ranges protected by city ordinances, Panagore said, others could be filled with lower-salary employees.
The program is part of a larger reorganization designed to cut costs. The city is facing a roughly $33 million deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Segarra said city officials are also seeking benefit concessions from the unions.
At the same time, city leaders are working to create an ordinance that would require non-bargaining-unit employees to wait at least until age 55 before retiring. Currently, workers can retire after 20 or 25 years of service, regardless of how old they are when they retire.
Under the proposal, employees would not be able to collect a full pension until age 62. Those who opt to begin drawing a pension between 55 and 61 would get reduced benefits. The ordinance would affect employees who are hired on or after July 1, 2011.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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