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Early retirements to save $10M

John Venditto (R, I, C, Working Families), winner

John Venditto (R, I, C, Working Families), winner for Town of Oyster Bay supervisor (June 29, 2007)
Read more about John Venditto Credit: Howard Schnapp

Oyster Bay Town hopes to coax at least 90 employees into early retirement with an incentive program that could save it about $10 million in the face of a financial crisis, officials said.

Supervisor John Venditto said he seeks "100 percent compliance" among a group of 91 older, more experienced and higher-paid employees, though about 230 people are eligible to retire with incentives through the proposed program.

"It seemed to me the most humane way to approach the problem and reduce the payroll," Venditto said Thursday.

The town is battling a $13 million deficit and last month had its Standard & Poor's bond rating lowered three notches to A.

The proposed program, slated to be introduced Tuesday at a public hearing before the town board and voted upon the same day, offers eligible employees $1,000 for each full year of service, individual or family lifetime health benefits and termination pay from accrued sick leave in addition to their pensions.

Eligible employees include both union and nonunion workers across every town department, officials said. Some could be off the payroll as soon as Sept. 1, officials said.

If the targeted 91 employees -- who are 62 or older with 20 or more years on the job, or 55 or older with 30 or more years on the job -- retire, about $10 million in "recurring revenue" would result, Venditto said.

He said the program could ultimately save the town much more than $10 million. There are no plans to immediately replace retirees with new hires, officials said.

How many in the pool of 230 eligible employees will take the deal remains to be seen, but Venditto said many people have indicated interest.

CSEA Local 881 president Robert Rauff Jr. said Thursday the union is "100 percent on board" with proposal.

"We've been a part of everything they've been a part of," Rauff said, calling the incentives "a good way for the members to achieve something they wouldn't otherwise."

Oyster Bay would cover the retirement costs with bonds, and legislation to extend the payback period over 10 years is being considered by the State Legislature, officials said.

Venditto said he has resolved to move the town toward fiscal solvency without tax hikes.

"I want to know I've done as much as I can to reduce cost -- in this case, in the area where we carry the heaviest burden, payroll -- with a view toward not impacting service and certainly not asking residents to pay more taxes," he said.

In addition to the incentives, the town has implemented discretionary cuts and halted overtime, with the exception of emergencies, officials said.

Oyster Bay has also asked for concessions from the union, which Venditto said he hopes "will step up and do their part in helping us out in the mess."

Rauff confirmed his group is in talks about concessions."This is something we always would negotiate on," he said.

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