Oyster Bay Town mulls new buyouts
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Debt-strapped Oyster Bay Town is poised to launch a new round of buyouts -- the second effort to purge high-salaried employees since its bond rating tumbled three notches last spring.
Eligible employees who accept buyouts would be off the payroll by May 1, town officials said yesterday. They would receive $1,000 per full year of service to the town.
The program is modeled after the one implemented from June until December, during which 92 of Oyster Bay's about 1,200 employees retired with incentives.
The latest cost-cutting effort is spurred by demand and potential savings, Town Attorney and Deputy Supervisor Leonard Genova said yesterday.
"Throughout the last one, a lot of senior people who were ineligible asked me if we would consider doing a program in 2013, when they were eligible," he said.
Because many have large salaries, "it makes sense from an economic standpoint," he said.
Genova would not say whether the town has a target number of retirees.
Oyster Bay this year will save $10.5 million in salaries and benefit expenses as a result of last year's buyouts, borrowing documents show. At least 22 of those retirees had six-figure salaries, town data show.
The town is battling $828 million in overall debt, though it expects state and federal reimbursement for the $15 million it borrowed to deal with damage wrought by superstorm Sandy.
Comparatively, the town had $724 million in debt as of November 2011.
Town officials yesterday voted, 6-0, with one board member absent, to schedule a Feb. 26 public hearing on the new buyout program.
It would be implemented as a local law that, if adopted, must be filed with the New York secretary of state.
Retirees would receive lifetime individual and family health coverage, and pay for accrued sick leave, among other benefits.
The three highest-paid of last year's retirees were recently rehired to work in their former positions part-time. They make up to $30,000, the maximum allowable by the state without forfeiting their pensions.
The Standard & Poor's rating service in May lowered the town's bond rating three notches to A, citing a failure to make budget adjustments to offset declining revenue.
Oyster Bay has implemented discretionary cuts, negotiated on concessions, including a no-layoff clause, with the local union, and is looking to sell some of its properties in efforts to resolve its fiscal crisis. The town was ready to lay off 200 workers before the union deal.