Mark Taylor
[email protected]
Johnson County’s staff is about to be significantly reduced.
One hundred seventy-five county employees have accepted an early retirement option that county commissioners approved in October as an effort to streamline county government.
Commissioners approved the early retirement incentive to “decrease the size and scope of Johnson County government consistent with ongoing revenues and revenue projections,” according to County Manager Hannes Zacharias.
Zacharias told commissioners in October that 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 were needed to meet budget projections by 2014 to “ensure that ongoing revenue, with no tax increase, will fund operations.”
More than 550 employees were eligible for the early retirement option.
Zacharias said 544 county employees are eligible for the program and he expects 20 to 45 percent to participate.
Those who accepted the early retirement option include Bernice Duletski, deputy county manager; David Wiebe, executive director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center; Donna Lauffer, Johnson County librarian; Cindy Kemper, director of the Environmental Department; and Jack Clegg, director of information technology services.
The program will pay 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.
According to a press release issued by the county, the 175 positions represent about $8.4 million in savings for 2012.
But the actual amount of savings depends upon how many of those positions remain vacant.
“Every position, including department heads, will be evaluated to ensure that it is mission critical before replacing the employee departing under the (early retirement incentive),” Zacharias said in the press release. “We will continue to address anticipated budget shortfalls by reorganizing, restructuring and downsizing our organization in the future, while maintaining our core services.”