Tonawanda News

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October 2, 2013

NT OKs worker buyout program

Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda Common Council has moved to incentivize retirements for some of the city’s most senior employees. 

The council unanimously approved a measure on Tuesday that will offer $5,000 for three years or $12,000 in one lump sum for those who decide to retire by Nov. 15. 

The retirement buyout has become a decided trend under Mayor Rob Ortt, who said the city’s workforce is 17 percent smaller under his administration due to attrition. Other rounds of retirement buyouts over the past three-plus years have made more workers eligible. The scope this time will be narrowed to Tier I employees, all of whom are age 65 or older and who have worked for the city for 25 years or more. The city currently has five employees who fit that category. 

“We have gotten to a point right now where I didn’t want there to be a mass exodus,” Ortt said. “If we offered an incentive that was too wide ... we’re at a point now in the city where a lot of our departments are operating on tight crews or manpower.” 

Ortt said during his State of the City address in January that 50 full-time positions have been cut since his first term began, saving the city $2.6 million in annual costs. In July, 11 city employees took buyouts, with six of those positions replaced by new-hires who earn less under city labor contracts.

Ortt said his intention now was drawn largely to shaving down pension costs. Deputy City Attorney Mark Dotterweich said the venture could save about $10,000 a year per employee, despite the fact that the city intends on replacing the positions possibly vacated by retirement with Tier 6 employees, the least senior classification. 

“That’s $6,000 a year per person just in medical savings,” Dotterweich said. 

Ortt said because there has been a flux of retirements during his term the city was able to avoid layoffs and other cost-cutting measures that align with the city’s shrinking populace, which is approximately 30,000 people, according to recent census data. 

“Nobody wants to lay anybody off,” Ortt said. “We’ve been spared in large part because we’ve been able to think long term. A couple of years ago we were in a position where we needed and could handle downsizing a number of positions. And it’s been mechanisms like this to (do it).” 

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