Retirement incentive sought for Sullivan County highway workers

J. H. Osborne • Oct 1, 2012 at 10:20 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — In a move sponsors say is aimed at cutting the county’s payroll — but not the overall budget’s bottom line — qualifying Sullivan County employees could have a chance to retire and get up to $10,000 cash from the county for doing so.

A similar program has been approved and used twice in recent years.

The impetus this time around is interest from one or two specific department heads who have said they have 10 or 12 employees, total, who would be interested in retiring if they could get the same deal, County Commissioner Dwight King said Monday.

King, primary sponsor of a resolution to put the “2012 Cost of Personnel Reduction Plan” in place, spoke to members of the Sullivan County Commission’s Administrative Committee.

The group endorsed the plan, meaning it recommends the full County Commission approve the resolution.

Supporters said most of the 10 or 12 employees in question are at the county’s highway department — which has winnowed down its payroll by several hundred thousand dollars in the past two implementations of such a plan.

King said the money saved by the plan in the past allowed the highway department to greatly increase the number of miles of roads since paved.

In order for employees to participate, the head of the department they work for must agree not to replace them — at least not with full-time help.

All costs associated with resulting employee departures — the incentives, payout of accrued leave time, etc. — will come out of the department’s current budget, according to the resolution, and the subsequent reduction in the department’s recurring personnel costs will be reallocated within the department’s budget “for other services.”

Employees who retire under the program, if it is approved by the full commission, will receive a lump-sum payment of $400 per year of credited full-time service, not to exceed $10,000.

Employees with at least 25 years of service and age 55 may opt for the plan and continue to receive health insurance benefits.

Employees with at least five years of service can opt for the plan without claims to participate in county-funded health insurance.

Employees would have permission to take only half the lump-sum payment and continue working for the department head as a part-time employee, according to one section of the resolution, while another part reads “nothing in this incentive program precludes any retiree from taking advantage of this offer and from later being eligible for part-time work with their employer.”

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