SEBASTIAN – The Sebastian City Council Wednesday unanimously approved spending $20,000 on an early retirement buy-out in order to save $92,000 within the next three years.
The council approved City Manager Al Minner’s request to offer $1,000 for every year a garage employee has worked – plus benefits until the worker turns 65, in almost three years.
“I think it needs to be looked at as a win-win situation,” Councilman Don Wright said, explaining that the employee would be free to pursue his interests and the city can save money. “I don’t see the downside.”
Minner told the council that the city has been offering early retirement buy-outs since 2007, which can be offered to employees who have served the city for at least 14 years and are within 37 months of turning 65.
Sebastian resident Damien Gilliams disagreed with the city’s position on offering early retirement, telling them that Sebastian is the only local government that makes that offer, calling it a “golden parachute.”
“We don’t have to do that,” he said, explaining that the city could just lay off the employee and save the money it would have spent on the buy-out and benefits.
Mayor Richard Gillmor said in response that the city has a union it has to work with and that the retirement incentive buy-outs means a cost savings for the city, which means less taxes needed from residents.
To date, the city has offered 10 buy-out packages, totaling between $300,000 and $500,000.
On average, the annual savings of those 10 positions was $60,000, Minner explained to the council. The savings then by year three for one position is $180,000 – multiple by 10 – and the savings to the city is $1.8 million.
“Those savings are exponential,” he said.
Wright said the money the city would be spending on the garage employee’s retirement would come from those savings.
“This is a good business decision,” he said.
Gilliams also questioned if the city had a policy in writing that those early retirement buy-out positions would indeed be frozen for three years and what would happen if the economy turns around and the city needs to fill the position.
Councilwoman Andrea Coy said if the city needed to fill the position, the employee would have to start at the bottom of the pay scale again.
City Manager Minner told the council that he believes the garage employee’s work would be adequately covered by the remaining employees.
“I feel confident we’ve spent the city’s money wisely,” Minner said.