20 from city choose early retirement

COVINGTON -- The city of Covington will eliminate up to 14 positions through a voluntary early retirement incentive package.

Human Resources Director Ronnie Cowan said 20 employees have accepted the early retirement package and at least 12 of those positions will remain unfilled. An additional two positions could be added to that list later this year, he said.

Duties will largely be absorbed by existing staff, he said. Some may eventually get an upgrade in pay but that will depend on recommendations from a consultant in the fall.

"Nobody is getting an upgrade in pay as of right now. A consultant will review the new job descriptions and will decide if there will be pay upgrades next year. In other words, we didn't go out here and promote a bunch of people," he said.

The city will save an estimated $696,225 annually or approximately $3.1 million over a five-year period if all positions remain unfilled. As the economy improves, the positions will be reviewed to determine if they should be refilled, Cowan said.

"As the jobs become vacant, we will list them on the budget as vacant positions and won't assign any money to them. If down the road (a position) needs to be filled, it will already be in the budget and we'll just need to create funding for it," Cowan said.

Positions affected are spread throughout the city's departments, from planning and zoning to fire and police to maintenance and sanitation, he said.

"I don't think it will have any significant impact on the citizens. Our work force has been very good at adapting to circumstances that come up and our managers are pretty well trained in how to pick up slack in different areas," Cowan said.

He told the Citizen in May that the early retirement package was being offered in hopes of avoiding future layoffs or furloughs.

"The economic conditions in the state and the community have contributed to an atmosphere of caution and fear among many of our employees who have delayed their retirement from the city," he said at the time. "The result is that nearly one-tenth of the city's work force is now eligible to receive a retirement benefit. This presents the city with an opportunity to further reduce its labor costs through a retirement incentive and to realign its work force based on the current economic situation without adverse impact on employee morale or service to the community. Our goal is to manage and operate the city in good times and bad times in the most effective and efficient manner possible, which means that we must adjust our operations from time to time."

The incentive offered to employees was a service credit of $62.50 for each completed month or $750 annually, in addition to the employee's retirement benefit calculated up to Dec. 31, 2010. The incentive will be paid out monthly over a period of five years.

An eligible employee with 35 years and two months of service would receive $26,375 payable over five years for a total of $439.58 per month, in addition to the employee's retirement benefit, for example. Employees will receive payment for any accrued vacation and sick time.

Eligible employees were those age 55 or older who qualified for retirement benefits under the city's pension and retirement plan.