Tonawanda News — Two long-time North Tonawanda employees have accepted $15,000 retirement incentives, bringing the total number of individuals who have taken a buyout since 2010 to 33, and bringing further savings to a workforce reduced by 17 percent during Mayor Rob Ortt’s tenure.
Assistant City Attorney Robert Sondel and Parks Maintenance Supervisor Larry Kuebler, both of whom had decades of seniority with the city, followed dozens of others who have taken an incentive over the last three years, with their last day of work effectively on Friday.
City Accountant Mark Dotterweich said approximately 10 of those positions were replaced at a lower pay scale and with a 25 percent contribution to health insurance, with an average savings of $59,000 additionally left among 23 employees whose positions were not replaced.
Ortt, who won a resounding victory on Tuesday for a second term, said the reduction in the workforce has led to a $2.3 million in annual savings for the municipality. And while he said he will review an incentive offering again next year, buyouts cannot exist in perpetuity without losing their influence.
“You look at it year by year,” he said. “We certainly have attrited the workforce to a point now that a buyout may not make as much sense going forward. If you offer it every year it loses the incentive because it may come to be expected. Up to this point we’ve used it as a budgetary tool, but I don’t necessarily foresee it going on every year.”
Ortt said the workforce has dropped from approximately 295 to 250 since 2009, mostly through attrition, while many of the employees did not take the incentive as prerequisite for their decision to leave their positions.
A $15,000 retirement incentive was offered to employees with more than 25 years of experience in 2009, 2010 and 2013. A $20,000 incentive was tendered in 2012 when 13 employees took the buyout.
Ortt said that the timing of recession that began in 2008 bolstered his case to lessen the number of employees within the city.
“It forced us to make some hard decisions,” he said. “It was just a matter of having the incentive and the political will. The public was willing to back us up, where maybe 10 or 15 years ago they wouldn’t have supported us at all. It’s all about timing.”
The mayor also said there are enough city employees left with mid-to-upper seniority to ward off the possibility of a brain drain.
“You always worry about that to some extent,” he said. “But there’s still many men and women with the institutional knowledge we need.”