TARPON SPRINGS — Some city employees will be offered a financial incentive to take early retirement.
In a continuing effort to trim its budget, the City Commission unanimously agreed to the plan Tuesday night. City Manager Mark LeCouris told commissioners that the savings will not be seen during the current fiscal year but in the future.
"We are anticipating another 5 to 8 percent drop in property taxes next year and it's another deficit we have to make up," LeCouris said. "I said on Oct. 1, I will be working on the budget for next year.
"It's all voluntary and the Tarpon city employees don't have a great pension system. The payoff for the general employee is not very good in my mind."
The incentive program will serve two purposes, LeCouris said.
"This is another little thing to thank employees for the years of service and to save money in the long run," LeCouris said. "If an employee has 25 or 30 years, the payoff will be $18,000 to $20,000."
A memorandum was given to employees this summer to gauge interest in voluntary incentive retirements. LeCouris said five or six employees expressed interest. With Tuesday night's approval, another inquiry will be made.
The program will be a one-time payment of $750 for each full year completed at the date of retirement for a maximum of 30 years. In addition, continued payment of the current single employee benefit premiums will be paid by the city for a year after retirement.
City employees who are 55 or older and have at least five years vested in the retirement system are eligible for the program. But LeCouris will have sole discretion on who will be offered the incentive based on the operational needs of the city.
City Attorney Jim Yacavone said the city would be protected from litigation on the package.
"You are not creating some entitlement," Yacavone said. "As long as it's not applied in some discriminatory fashion. I don't think anyone could sue to say they are entitled to it. It's discretionary and that's been made clear from the beginning."
Commissioners agreed that the program was a move in the right direction.
"The retirement incentive," Commissioner Chris Alahouzos said, "is beneficial to the employee and the city of Tarpon Springs."
Contact Demorris A. Lee at email@example.com or (727) 445-4174.