900 workers take early retirement from city Buyout designed to cut work force, avert layoffs

August 01, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

About 900 Baltimore City employees left the payroll yesterday as part of an early retirement incentive program that aims to pare government and keep more money in city coffers.

The first and most lucrative phase of the retirement plan ended yesterday with the exact number still to be tallied. Officially the plan ends in December, but city officials expected most of the retiring employees to leave before August because of incentives.

"We are very pleased with the results of" the retirement plan, said City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III.

Bell, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and 3rd District Councilman Martin O'Malley drafted the retirement plan.

"We had about 500-plus who left in the last week," said Tom P. Taneyhill, acting administrator for the Baltimore City Retirement Systems.

Taneyhill said that up-to-date figures of where the retirements were coming from were not available.

The latest list, tallied in early July, gives an idea where the most departures are from: education 120, finance 51, health 54, housing 47, public works 227, recreation and parks 64.

Funded by a surplus in the city's pension system, the program is designed to cut the city's 25,000-person work force without widespread layoffs.

It makes leaving more attractive by crediting workers with additional service, including a 5 percent payment bonus to those who opted to sever their employment by yesterday.

Under the program, a worker making $25,000 with 20 years of service would get $9,246 a year, an increase of about $1,700 over regular retirement benefits; one making $50,000 with 30 years of service would get $31,313 a year, an increase of about $6,000. Those figures do not include lump-sum payments for unused leave.

Originally, Schmoke wanted to phase in the program -- which covers all categories of workers except police officers, firefighters and teachers, who have separate retirement systems -- over five years as a way of reducing the number of city employees and getting long-term budget savings.

But at the suggestion of City Council leaders, who wanted to balance this year's budget without substantial tax increases, the program was compressed into six months.

Pub Date: 8/01/96

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