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Islip, Brookhaven, East Hampton join early retirement plan

Islip, Brookhaven and East Hampton towns are the latest Long Island municipalities to opt in to a state plan to entice public employees to retire early.

The three towns voted this week to participate in the plan, which is designed to avert layoffs and save money by encouraging longtime public servants to retire and eliminate jobs deemed to be "less critical to government operations," according to the state law.

The plan includes two tiers: Under Part A, eligible employees can boost their pension credits by up to three years by adding a month of credit for every year of service. That option, for those 50 or older with at least 10 years of service, requires localities to target certain job titles.

Part B lowers the minimum age at which workers can retire without penalty from 62 to 55, provided they've served for at least 25 years. Employees who qualify for both plans must choose one or the other, according to the state law, approved in June.

Islip expects to save up to $2.5 million over the next two years by offering both tiers. "We've been tightening our belts over the past three years," Islip labor relations director Robert Finnegan said, noting that the town has already cut its workforce from 974 to 765, laying off 39 employees last year.

At least three other municipalities opted in to the plan earlier this month: Huntington and Oyster Bay are participating in both tiers, and Long Beach chose to participate in Plan A only.

For Kevin Boyle, president of Islip's United Public Service Employees Union, the deal "provides an opportunity to people who would otherwise not be eligible to retire. It's a win-win situation for the employee and employer."

To offer Part A, local governments must show they will save, over two years, the equivalent of one year's salary for each retiree. The equation must factor in the costs of an employee's separation payments, accrued vacation and sick time.

Long Beach City Manager Charles Theofan said the plan became financially viable thanks to union givebacks. For example, about 20 eligible workers would forgo this year's 3.5-percent salary raise in calculating such payouts. "Without these concessions it would not have made sense," said Theofan, noting that the city expected to leave about 11 of those positions vacant.

East Hampton's vote to join the state program came at a Town Board meeting last night. In July, the Riverhead Town Board adopted a separate plan that aims to net five early retirees.

Several other towns are weighing whether to participate, local officials said.

How it works:

  • TO CUT PAYROLL expenses and reduce the size of the workforce, municipalities may opt to offer employees one or both of the following incentives during this budget year only:
  • PART A ALLOWS employees in targeted positions to boost pensions by adding one month of service credit for each year worked, to a maximum of three extra years.
  • PART B ALLOWS workers who are at least 55, and have a minimum of 25 years in the state pension system, to retire without penalty. That's typically not allowed until age 62.
  • MUNICIPALITIES that choose to participate must designate a time window for employees to submit their paperwork to retire.
  • - Compiled by Laura Rivera


    IN OR OUT


    Opted In

    • Town of Brookhaven
    • Town of Huntington
    • Town of Islip
    • Town of East Hampton
    • City of Long Beach (Part A only)
    • Oyster Bay
    • (All but Long Beach are participating in both Parts A, B)


      Considering

    • Town of Babylon
    • Town of North Hempstead

    • Not Considering

    • Town of Hempstead
    • Town of Smithtown

    • Alternative

    • Town of Riverhead
    • Approved its own early retirement incentive program in July for union employees who are 55 and older and have served at least 20 years.

      - Compiled by staff

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