Nassau lawmakers unanimously approved a $13 million retirement incentive Wednesday for members of the county’s largest municipal union.
The move could save taxpayers millions of dollars a year in annual labor costs but also will reduce the size of an already depleted workforce.
The incentive for full-time Civil Service Employees Association members with at least 10 years of service gives them $1,000 for every year with the county.
Enrollment began Aug. 9 and 221 CSEA members have signed up to take the deal, said Nassau County budget director Roseann D’Alleva.
Employees have until Sept. 15 to take the incentive and union officials expect enrollment to reach nearly 300.
Under the union contract, employees also are paid for unused vacation, personal and sick time.
The incentive agreement requires the county to replace only 50 percent of the employees who leave the county’s service.
“I didn’t really want to do this,” said CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta. “We have skeleton crews in many departments and can’t really afford to lose anybody else.”
The incentive, officials said, was offered in response to an order in June by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board in control of the county’s finances, to cut $100 million in spending in the county’s 2018 budget — or 7 percent from 2017 levels.
Staffers in the Public Works, Social Services and Parks departments, as well as police department civilian employees, are among those taking the deal, Laricchiuta said.
“There is already a hole in staffing,” said Gary Volpe, unit president for 911 operators. “It’s just a question of how much of a crater is left behind.”
Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said Nassau separately is filling vacancies in some civilian law enforcement positions, including hiring 25 911 operators.
The county’s workforce has decreased by 18.5 percent from 9,177 in 2009 to 7,475 in 2017, officials said.
Eric Naughton, Nassau’s deputy county executive for finance, described the incentive as a routine cost-cutting move.
“We are always looking for ways to reduce cost,” he said. “We will be submitting a proposed budget Sept. 15 for 2018, and this is one of the tools that we have used in the past to ensure a balanced budget.”
D’Alleva pinned the cost of the incentive at about $13 million, or $56,000 per employee. Nassau will fund the program from its operating budget using salary savings from the final 3 1⁄2 months of the year and $8.5 million in anticipated surpluses in other areas, officials said.
“The county needs to continue to reduce the size of its workforce and control labor costs in order to achieve structural balance,” said NIFA chairman Adam Barsky.
County officials Wednesday also briefed lawmakers on the status of Nassau’s 2017 midyear finances.
Naughton said Nassau is expected to end 2017 with an approximately $40 million deficit on a Generally Accepted Accounting Principles basis.
Nassau has seen a reduction in social service caseloads, higher than expected sales tax revenue and lower utility costs, D’Alleva said. But some savings will be eliminated because of a new CSEA contract for inmate health care and restoration of NICE bus funding.
County Comptroller George Maragos testified that Nassau is on the road to ending 2017 with a $57.6 million deficit based on GAAP standards.