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Carroll County Commissioners have authorized an early retirement incentive plan that aims to reduce the amount of county employees who otherwise might involuntarily lose their jobs in budget cuts.

The commissioners announced a plan Sept. 30 in which more than 150 employees would be eligible to accept early retirement. Employees have until Oct. 31 to participate, and retirement would start Jan. 1, 2010.

"While the recovery has started, the impact on government agencies at the state, county and city levels is going to continue to be felt for up to six years," Commissioner Dean Minnich said.

The plan does not include the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, public schools, circuit court and state's attorney's office.

Carole Hammen, director of the county's Department of Human Resources, said the formula for the retirement incentive will include age, years of service and requirements on pension plans. She did not project how many employees and how much money the county hopes to save.

"We're not going to know until Oct. 30," she said, but the hope is to save a half of a year's salary in each position.

Minnich said the county has to rethink how it's going to operate to face ongoing cuts, but he's also disappointed with some of the moves.

"We're about as lean as we should be already," he said. "The idea of cutting people and programs really bugs me."

Additionally, he said, the commissioners and staff have talked about several proposals, though none have been approved. These include:

*Suspending or eliminating projects that have not been funded or targeted;

*Reducing runs of snow plows during storms except for heavy storms;

*Reducing the amount of salt placed on roads during winter storms;

*Closing county parks and senior centers one day a week;

*Reducing school "maintenance of effort" funds, related to funding levels mandated by the state; and

*Cross-training staff to do additional jobs.

Minnich said the other option is raising taxes, and even that would not be enough to recover the lost revenue.

But Commissioner Michael Zimmer said the retirement incentive gives the county options to deal with state budget cuts. He said he hopes the move will minimize layoffs and the elimination of jobs.

"We're basically going to shrink the footprint of county government," he said. "It's something nobody takes joy in. It's an economic reality."

Zimmer said he has proposed a mid-year plan, too, that includes eliminating funds for micro-seal road surfacing, staff salary reductions, eliminating travel to National Association of Counties conferences and elimination of the newly-created position of a county sustainability coordinator.

"In my thinking, it's not sustainable financially," he said, adding that the position is based on "left-leaning, biased theories."

Ted Zaleski, county director of management and budget, said Zimmer's proposals would save about $1.8 million in FY 2010.

Minnich challenged the elimination of the sustainability post, saying Zimmer's position is a political one, but Zimmer maintains his ideas are not personal or political.

"Commissioner Minnich is a broken record," he said. "He puts the political darts my way. ... Where are his ideas to cut our government and right-size our government?"

Commissioner Julia Gouge was unavailable for comment.


user comments (2)


user giselherr says...

I've got a couple of positions to cut: 1. Vivian Laxton, county spokes person, why do we need to pay her to basically parrot whatever Gouge's policy is? It's redundant - perhaps if Gouge stayed home from one of her boondoggles to MACO/NACO she would be available for comment. 2. Airport Administrator McKelvey -- I haven't seen him do anything except obfuscate and otherwise avoid the issue.


user admin says...

Editor's Note: Gouge was unavailable for comment due to a medical procedure performed that day.


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