More than 200 members of Nassau County's largest union have accepted an early retirement incentive -- topping union expectations and ensuring that county lawmakers will have to increase borrowing for payouts by at least $3 million.
The Civil Service Employees Association incentive, aimed at cutting payroll in the wake of the county comptroller's projection of a $77 million year-end budget deficit, was approved by the County Legislature last month and by Nassau's fiscal control board Wednesday.
Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said Thursday that about 202 CSEA workers have accepted the deal, which provides $1,000 for each year of service. Members have until the end of Friday to take part.
"It's much more than I originally anticipated," said CSEA President Jerry Laricchiuta.
Departing workers include more than 40 full-time school crossing guards. Once they leave, they can be replaced with part-timers who do not have full health benefits, according to the new labor deal.
About 20 public works employees also will leave, and many of them will be replaced without making new hires through the transfer of sewer system staff affected by the takeover of the system by a private operator, officials said.
Nassau likely will need to borrow $8.5 million to cover termination payouts, $3.5 million more than lawmakers already have approved, Walker said. But he noted that the accelerated departure of higher-paid workers allows replacements to be hired under a new labor deal, which contains lower pay scales and employee health care contributions.
Not all workers will be replaced, Walker said. But even if they were, he added, the estimated annual salary savings would be about $6 million.
"No matter what, you're saving millions and millions of dollars," Walker said Thursday.
Jon Kaiman, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's state control board, said he is looking forward to the county providing precise savings estimates once the incentive offer has expired and calculations are finalized.
"It's important that these operating savings are continued as we go forward, and that salaries aren't just replaced with people making the same salaries," Kaiman said.
Laricchiuta urged the county to fill many positions, particularly crossing guards, deputy sheriffs, 911 operators and other public safety employees.
"Everyone wanted structural change, and they got it," Laricchiuta said. "So I would hope they would take advantage of the new deal they have."
Walker said the administration's 2015 budget, due next week, won't seek to increase the 2014 budgeted employee count of 7,395, about 3,500 of whom are CSEA members.