Oyster Bay officials have approved an early retirement incentive program designed to bring relief to a town that Supervisor John Venditto called "asset long and cash short."
The town board Tuesday voted unanimouslyto authorize a program that offers eligible employees $1,000 per year of service -- in addition to individual and family lifetime health benefits, accrued sick pay and pensions. Union members are already entitled to some of these benefits.
Venditto said he expects about $10 million in recurring savings would result -- much-needed funds in light of the town's $13 million shortfall and its lowered Standard & Poor's bond rating.
"It's dollar-for-dollar $10 million that would go a long way towards helping us with our economic woes and maybe even get us out of the woods," he said during a public hearing.
About 280 employees -- those aged 55 or older with at least five years of service -- are eligible for the program, deputy town attorney Thomas Sabellico said.
Those opting to retire within the first of two open periods must file with the state on or before Aug. 15, he said. Their last day of work would be Sept. 1.
A seminar next week in Hicksville will explain the program to interested employees, Sabellico said.
Eligible workers cross every town department, and are union and nonunion, town officials said. Their retirement costs will be covered with bonds, officials said.
Venditto has called 91 employees with the longest length of service and highest salaries to retire.
Retirees would not be immediately replaced with hires, Venditto said. "Someday we'll be hiring people -- when the sun comes out," he said.
Robert Rauff Jr., president of the CSEA Local 881, said many union members have expressed interest but some are "frightened" at the prospect of joblessness in a grim economic climate.
"We're not discouraging or encouraging it," Rauff said. "We just want to make sure they know the facts."
He added, however, that he supports the town's efforts.
"Considering the economy and where the town is going, this is probably the best thing they can offer their people presently," he said.
The town, in an effort to save money without raising taxes, has also made discretionary cuts, eliminated overtime outside of emergencies and is seeking CSEA concessions.