Oyster Bay retirement program to cost $2.36M

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Early-retirement incentives, a program implemented to help rescue Oyster Bay from its financial crisis, will cost the town at least $2.36 million, according to an analysis of data provided in response to a Newsday request.

The 90 employees who have accepted buyouts had salaries totaling nearly $8 million this year and worked nearly 2,400 total years for the town, the data showed.

Oyster Bay is paying the incentives using bonds, but is in turn saving $3.4 million this year and $10.5 million next year on payroll expenses that include the retirees' salaries and benefits, town spokeswoman Marta Kane said Thursday.

Eighty-eight people retired in the program's first window and two have signed up in the second, Kane said. Few are expected to sign up before the last deadline, Dec. 31, she said.

Retirees through the program make $1,000 for each full year of service plus pensions, sick-day payouts, lifetime health coverage and other benefits for which they may already be eligible through the local union.

The program was one of several measures the town has taken to fix a financial mess that includes $754.2 million in overall debt, as of May, and a Standard & Poor's bond rating lowered three notches to A.

Oyster Bay officials also cut overtime and contractual costs, and plan to lay off the equivalent of 150 town positions, possibly before the end of the year.

Kane said last week, however, that officials still hold hope for a deal with the local union that could stave off staff cuts.

Concession talks fell through this summer, but Civil Service Employees Association Local 881 president Robert Rauff Jr. said that the union has been trying to reach the town "to see what the supervisor means by 'hope.' "

Rauff called the town's offers, including a proposed 4 percent pay cut, unreasonable. "In my opinion, they don't want to negotiate, they just want to lay off," he said.

The retirees, combined with the planned layoffs, leave Oyster Bay poised to begin 2013 with at least 240 fewer employees -- or about 19 percent of the workforce -- across nearly all the town departments.

Supervisor John Venditto has said town services would not suffer as a result.

He has said the retirees will not be replaced in 2013 and called the payroll savings "recurring revenue."

Of the most recent batch of retirees, 22 had six-digit salaries, according to the data.

The highest-paid retirees were Parks Commissioner James Byrne with a $150,125 salary and 40 years of service to the town, and public information officer James Moriarty, who made $142,211 annually and worked 14 years with the town.

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