Mark Taylor
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The Johnson County Board of Commissioners took two actions on Oct. 13 to streamline county government.
In separate votes, commissioners approved a proposed consolidation of the Emergency Management, Homeland Security and Emergency Communications Center, and authorized an early retirement incentive program for county employees.
Hannes Zacharias, county manager, said the recommendation to merge the three agencies into the Department of Management and Communications was made by the Matrix Consulting Group which was hired by the county to assess the county’s overall efficiency and effectiveness of county operations.
The merger went into effect on Oct. 13.
Calvin Hayden, 6th District, said he believed the consolidation would benefit constituents.
“I think this is a great opportunity to combine several departments that actually compliment one other,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to make government smaller, which citizens deserve and expect us to do.”
Commissioners also approved an early retirement incentive program designed to “decrease the size and scope of Johnson County government consistent with ongoing revenues and revenue projections,” according to Zacharias.
Zacharias said the county has worked to downsize staff through attrition following a five-year budget forecast in 2009 that identified a “structural imbalance.”
He said 265 additional full time reductions are needed to meet budget by 2014 to “ensure that ongoing revenue, with no tax increase, will fund operations.”
Zacharias said 544 county employees are eligible for the program and he expects 20 to 45 percent to participate.
The program would give eligible employees a lump-sum payment of one week of pay for each year of uninterrupted service with a minimum of eight weeks and a maximum of 16 weeks.
Participants would also retain access to the County Employee Assistance Program for six months and continued group health insurance at the employee rate for five years (or until they become eligible for Medicare) or a lump sum payment of $6,000 in lieu of health insurance.
A 20 percent participation rate would save the county about $20.7 million over five years, Zacharias said.