Retirement incentive savings still unclear

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, January 15, 2009

Now that eight have officially accepted the Pike County Commission’s early retirement incentive program, it’s still unclear just how much it will save.

The program, which was first introduced at the end of last year, was offered originally as a way to cut costs as the county braced for tough economic times. But a new proposal could leave the commission saving less than planned.

The goal of the incentive was to save costs on salary by either not replacing retired positions or replacing them at a starting salary.

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In Monday’s commission meeting, however, Pike County’s Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair requested the commission allow him to give raises to each of his employees, who will take on a heavier work load without the help of one employee who accepted the incentive.

Commissioners granted his request, just as they granted one similar in the Pike County Sheriff’s office a few weeks prior, County Administrator Harry Sanders said.

Now, District 4 Commissioner Ray Goodson said the only fair thing to do would be grant the other two departments whose employees accepted the incentive a similar benefit.

“What we’re doing is leaving some behind, and that’s not right,” Goodson said Monday night. “All I’m asking is everyone be treated equally.”

Goodson was the only commissioner to oppose Blair’s proposal, simply, he said, because the incentive was done to save the county money in the long term.

The program offered to employees actually is costing the commission money right now, since they had to pay employees 75 percent of their salary and benefits in one lump sum this year.

If Goodson’s new proposal is passed, giving some salary boosts to employees in the commission office and the county road department, it would increase the length of time it takes the county to benefit from the incentive plan.

Sanders said there are 50 to 60 employees in those two departments combined, but he is uncertain how much more it would cost the county to disperse these funds.

Even with the raises for the revenue commissioner’s office, Sanders said they will still save around $8,000 from just Blair’s department.

But, he said numbers total savings can’t be counted yet, since some employees may be replaced in either the sheriff’s office or the road department, who had six retirees combined.

The commission office, who lost the accountant, will not fill the vacancy in hopes of setting the example to other county offices.

By the next commission meeting Jan. 26, Sanders said a proposal should be drafted for commissioners to vote on whether they would like to see these other two departments with similar salary hikes.

No other commissioner expressed an opinion either way in Monday night’s meeting but Goodson.