265 Kalamazoo City employees are eligible for the early retirement incentive. According to the city’s Human Resources Director Jerome Post, 191 of them have already signed up. “I have to admit I’m a little surprised at the number of people,” Post said the number is higher than he expected.
“It’s been a little bit anxiety ridden for us but at the same time we’ve been very excited about the opportunity this presents for us to restructure virtually every department in the city,” Post said.
Kalamazoo hopes the early retirement plan will save roughly $2.5 million. That would help avoid major layoffs in the 2013 budget in the face of a projected $6 million deficit. The city operates on a 5 year fiscal plan. “We’re always trying to stay a few steps ahead,” Post said.
Workers have until Tuesday to take the retirement offer. Then they’ll have seven days if they want to change their minds and come back.
Post says there’s a number of reasons the city decided to make the offer this year. He says there was a “wave” of people who would become eligible for retirement over the next 3 years, so this will help speed that up. Unlike many cities, Kalamazoo’s pension fund is in really good shape so that gives the city some flexibility to make the offer (the incentive will cost the pension fund up front but that money will be paid back through the general fund).
Post expects the city to stagger when employees taking the incentive will leave over a 2 year window. The first wave of departures will be in April 2012.