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126 COUNTY EMPLOYEES TO TAKE EARLY RETIREMENT
INCENTIVE PROGRAM IS EXPECTED TO SAVE $3.8 MILLION IN PAYROLL COSTS

Erie County offered early retirements, and 126 employees said yes, saving $3.8 million in payroll costs.

County Budget Director Kenneth C. Kruly said it appears that 47 employees will take incentives to retire early from Erie County Medical Center and 79 from other departments.

"The numbers are higher than we expected. We originally thought it would be about 80," Kruly said. "Probably two-thirds of the (retiring) jobs will be eliminated, and others will have extended vacancies -- six or eight months -- to allow savings."

Jobs not cut are refilled at lower salary grades, with new appointees earning less than their predecessors for three years or more, Kruly said.

The estimated $3.8 million in total savings will not all go to the county, because most Social Services Department jobs are two-thirds subsidized by the state or federal government, Kruly said.

Erie County has about 6,834 jobs, with another 150 paid for by grants.

The Social Services Department will lose 22 employees to early retirement, but it gained 27 last week through approval of new grant-funded jobs. The mission of the new jobs is to help move welfare parents into employment.

Kruly said Social Services must have even more new jobs.

"Even though the Social Services Department may have determined it can let some people retire, it now needs different positions filled to implement the law," he said.

Kruly said the state has come in with welfare reform but not rules.

"We're lurching into this without the state giving us good direction," he said.

Last week, Kruly also permitted the sheriff to fill 23 vacant jobs, including six part-timers.

"At this point, this is a big help," said Brian Doyle, administrative chief of the Sheriff's Department. "We look forward to trying to get more."

Doyle said current vacancies include 31 full-time and 20 part-time posts.

Legislator Edward J. Kuwik, the Lackawanna Democrat who heads the Public Service Committee, was credited with helping to reach the solution.

"The Sheriff's (Department) is a large department with a high turnover level," Kruly said. "We attempted to get them staffed to a level that seems appropriate. There will be a new sheriff in three months and there may be new priorities."

Kruly said overtime in the Sheriff's Department and the Erie County Holding Center totals about $5.25 million a year, with the Erie County Correctional Facility adding another $1 million.

"We are spending a lot of money on overtime," he said. "It is particularly high in public safety areas. The hospital also has a substantial amount."

Kruly said it is more fiscally sound to fill jobs -- such as guards -- that require staffing 24 hours a day than to keep workers beyond quitting time on overtime pay.

"In specific cases, it is less expensive to fill a job than to have overtime," he said.

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