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Retirement Incentives Offered to Dodge Layoffs

Six Southampton Town employees have expressed interest in a retirement incentive program, and more are sought.

Southampton Town is offering municipal employees $1,000 for every year of service to the town if they retire by the end of April, in a move designed to avoid firing as many as 15 employees

The incentive program is expected to save up to $1.3 million in 2012 through police retirements and another $1.1 million for other retirements.

“This is an unanimous decision of the entire town board to offer an early retirement incentive for any staff who is eligible,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said during Tuesday’s board meeting. She said it is part of delivering a sustainable town budget.

In crafting the 2012 budget, Throne-Holst said she excluded the salaries of six employees who already expressed interest in the retirement incentive. However, 15 involuntary layoffs are being proposed.

Employees would need to let the town know by Nov. 1 that they plan to retire. In the event there isn’t enough interest to avoid layoffs, Throne-Holst also said union concessions could save jobs.

“Staff reductions are always painful,” Throne-Holst said in a statement Friday. “We are talking about people who have served this town for years, decades, and in some cases, their entire professional lives. I cannot say enough about how much we appreciate their good work, and how difficult it has been to make these decisions.”

Throne-Holst said early attempts at negotiations were unsuccessful.

The supervisor’s budget proposal also calls for reducing the size of the police force from 96 to 90 officers.

Eight officers with 25 years or more of service would willfuly retire or be forced into retirement, and two of them would be replaced by entry-level officers.

Throne-Holst explained that under the “20 Years of Service” provision of state law, the town board may “separate from service” town police officers with at least 20 years on the job.

“While I will certainly regret the loss of some of our longest serving officers, many of whom serve in positions of rank, the need for cost reductions, greater efficiency and a new view of how to provide police services, caused my decision,” Throne-Holst said. “However, these officers will be able to separate from service with full retirements and generous benefits, including fully paid health insurance.”

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