County offers second voluntary separation program

The Anoka County Board has initiated another voluntary separation program as a budget cutting move.

On the recommendation of its Benefits and Compensation Committee, the program will very similar to the first one initiated in 2011.

The county board voted unanimously to put the voluntary separation program in place.

Regular employees with 10 years of service or more and who are eligible to collect a full or reduced Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) coordinated, police and fire or correctional plan annuity or are receiving a PERA disability benefit will be able to take part in the voluntary separation program.

Employees choosing to take part in the program must complete a voluntary separation election form indicating their resignation date and submit it to the human resources department on or before Nov. 21, 2012.

And they must select a resignation date of Jan. 15 through March 1, 2013 under the program.

For employees who take part in the program, the county will provide a base monetary incentive of $10,000 and for each additional full year of service beyond 10 years, the employee will be paid an additional $500 up to a total maximum benefit of $22,500, recognizing up to a maximum of 35 years of regular service, according to the resolution approved by the county board.

The monetary incentive dollars will be placed in a post-employment health care savings plan administered by the Minnesota State Retirement System on or about March 15, 2013.

Qualifying, regular part-time employees will also be eligible for the voluntary separation program on a pro-rated basis proportionate to their official full-time equivalency (FTE).

In addition, the resolution states that qualifying county board at-will appointees will be considered on a case-by-case basis should they request to be part of the program.

Regular county employees covered by collective bargaining units are specifically excluded from the incentive benefit created by the county board action because their benefit and pay matters are governed by collective bargaining agreements.

Temporary employees are also excluded from the benefit provision of the county board action.

According to the resolution, this program is part of “cost saving measures to assist with managing the county’s budget.”

When the county launched its first voluntary separation program in 2011, 97 employees took advantage of it, said County Administrator Jerry Soma.

The savings are estimated at $1.5 million through 2012, he said.

That’s because several of the people that retired were at the top of their salary range and their replacements started at a lower pay grade, according to Soma.

“In some cases, we did not fill the positions,” he said.

The only change to the new program is some language alterations that were recommended by the state as part of the PERA provisions, Soma said.

In light of the numbers that took part in the voluntary separation program last year, he said it is difficult to judge how many employees will elect to be involved this time and how much money will be saved.

The county board’s Benefit and Compensation Committee comprises County Commissioner Robyn West, who is the chairperson, Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah and County Commissioner Andy Westerberg, who is the board’s responsible commissioner for insurance/retirement.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]