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Early retirement expected to save county millions

ELIZABETHTOWN - If every Essex County employee who has expressed interest in early retirement accepts the incentive package they've been offered, there will be a big savings for the cash-strapped government, county officials predicted this week.

County supervisors overwhelmingly endorsed two local laws Monday adopting the retirement incentives for employees who don't meet typical retirement standards.

State lawmakers approved the two incentive packages earlier this year.

Essex County Manager Dan Palmer said if each of the 39 employees who have expressed interest in the buyouts accepts the package, it would mean roughly a $3 million savings for the county over the next five years.

"Under the retirement incentive itself there would be about 16 positions that would be eliminated," he said. "That's ultimately where the savings comes from - elimination of positions."

More than 30 employees have expressed interest in the more lucrative "Part A" incentive, which is designed for municipal and school employees who are five years short of the typical retirement requirements.

The state requires a 50 percent savings over two years for the part-A plan to be enacted in a local municipality or school district. In order to meet this goal, Palmer is proposing the outright elimination of 16 positions that would be vacated by the incentive package. The other openings would likely be filled through internal promotion or the hiring of cheaper, youthful labor.

Beyond the 16 positions on the chopping block, Palmer is also proposing the elimination of 15 other positions at the county-owned Horace Nye Nursing Home and the county fish hatchery.

"Those 15 that will be in that budget will depend on if we contract the kitchen or not, and the board hasn't decided on that yet," he said. "These 16 (positions) we would be sure of if they all take the incentive."

While supervisors mull the future of Horace Nye, Palmer is proposing outsourcing its kitchen facility to private enterprise.

Last spring, public employee unions declined to renegotiate contracted 4 percent raises with the cash-strapped county, which is expected to experience a budget shortfall $7 of million next year.

In response, county officials are planning on freezing the pay of all non-union labor.

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