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Harford to spend nearly $5M to save up to $7M yearly in employee buyout

Harford County government could save more than $7 million annually after the last of 73 employees who accepted the county executive's special retirement incentive leaves work in May.

A report on the retirement incentive submitted to the council earlier this week says the county will spend $4,933,581 on the buyout, $2,396,109 more than had the employees left under a normal retirement.

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The average payout per employee is $67,583.30 with each individual's payout depending on service time and salary. A range of the individual payouts was not part of the report sent to the council, but is expected to be made public after the last of the 73 leaves county service May 1.

The administration had hoped to get at least 100 employees to take the incentive and had requested funding for up to 120, which the county council approved in January. More than 250 employees were eligible to apply.

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A similar program offered by the previous administration in 2010 had 53 takers. Former executive David Craig tried to implement a similar buyout program in early 2014, but the previous county council rejected funding requested for it.

The anticipated savings of $7,019,000 over a 12-month period assumes none of the positions being vacated is refilled and, while the administration is trying to avoid such backfill, some is possible, spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.

In a cover letter to Council President Richard Slutzky that accompanied the report, Glassman also raised the likelihood that not every position tied to the incentive can be eliminated.

"...it is still to be determined the extent to which vacant positions – whether directly created by retirement or as the result of internal promotion into a vacant position – would need to be filled," he wrote.

"For those positions that must be filled in order for us to continue to meet the service expectations of our citizens, our intention is to first promote from within, allowing employees who have distinguished themselves to have opportunities for advancement," he continued. "There is still work to be done in terms of finding efficiencies and right-sizing county government, but through our retirement incentive program we have successfully put county government along a path toward financial sustainability."

Glassman has also been looking for other ways to cut the nearly 100 positions on the county payroll, including outsourcing some jobs and consolidating others into a single position.

The county's 11-position security force was taken off the books by transferring some of the positions to the Sheriff's Office, where they will become part-time with county benefits, Glassman said recently.

Government sources say the operations of the county's waste disposal center in Scarboro are also likely to be outsourced, and though the administration says no such decision is imminent, it is on the table.

Under the incentive program, employees who agreed to retire will receive a $5,000 signing bonus and payment of 100 percent of their accrued unused sick leave. For normal retirements the county pays 50 percent of the accrued sick leave.

The employees are also receiving outplacement services from the county and a $20,000 life insurance policy.

Among county departments, 13 employees are leaving parks and recreation, 12 from both the director of administration's office and highways, seven from inspections and permits, six from treasury, five from solid waste, three from planning and zoning, two each from law, community services and economic development and one each from human resources, information technology and emergency services.

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