Half Of Eligible Wicomico Workers Opt To Retire Early

SALISBURY — Wicomico County’s government workforce will soon see a considerable reduction after over half of the 80 employees have opted to take advantage of the incentive-laden early retirement opportunity.

In March, the County Council voted to approve the early retirement incentive program after a lengthy debate about the potential savings and the need to fill the resulting vacancies with new hires at lower salary rates and benefit packages. Roughly 80 employees qualified for the early retirement incentive plan, and County Executive Rick Pollitt last week announced 44 had taken advantage of the opportunity.

Employees eligible for the early retirement plan were required to have 25 years of service with the county or be at least 55 years old with five years of service. The plan would add five extra years of service to a retiring employee’s pension plan, which could add thousands of dollars to their retirement benefit package.

The benefit for the county is replacing long-time employees who are close to retirement age anyway and who have climbed the salary ladder over several years of service with new hires starting on the front end of the salary and benefit scale. In many cases, the retiring employees might not need to be replaced, eliminating a substantial amount of salary and benefits from the coming budget. Pollitt said this week the benefits of the early retirement incentive plan for the city was twofold.

“This exercise is an opportunity to not only reward faithful county employees for their long and devoted service to the people of Wicomico County, but is a further opportunity to restructure our government in a fashion that is more reflective of the challenging economic times in which we live yet still provide a decent level of county services for our community,” he said.

After the council approved the early retirement incentive plan in March, eligible employees had until last Monday to make their decision. For the 44 who opted to take the plan, they will officially become retired on July 1.

Pollitt said the program will save the city $100,000 in fiscal year 2012 alone, with the real financial benefit being realized for years to come.

“As I advised the County Council when I announced this program, the real savings will be realized in fiscal years to come in the form of a smaller, restructured county government,” he said. “Bear in mind that those eligible for this incentive are long-time employees and are entitled to compensation for accrued annual and sick leave, requiring a substantial payout of accruals.”