Cowlitz County is offering early retirement and separation buyouts to employees as officials work to bridge a $4 million budget gap for 2014.

“The budget being what it is this year, we’re giving the staff the opportunity of helping to reduce our staff,” Commissioner Jim Misner said.

The program, approved Tuesday, offers employees incentives if they agree to leave county employment early. The payments are based on the number of years the employees have worked for the county. The program will pay $1,000 for every year up to 15 and $750 for every year thereafter. There’s a maximum payment cap of $26,250.

For now, the offer is only for the county’s 168 nonunion employees. Union contracts prevent such an offer to the 351 employees who are members of a bargaining group. Commissioners said, however, that they would offer buyouts as an option to unions during the next round of contract negotiations.

Employees must apply for the voluntary buyout program by Oct. 23. Only those positions that will save the county money will be approved, Misner said. Employees who take the buyout cannot apply for county jobs for at least three years. If they do return to full time county employment before then, they must repay a prorated amount of the buyout.

The county is facing a $4 million budget shortfall for 2014 and officials have said as many as 40 jobs may have to be cut to balance the books. Commissioners said they hoped the early retirement offer will help make cuts without having to lay off as many workers.

Buyouts were last offered in 2009, when another round of layoffs were used to balance the budget.

(5) comments

noname
noname

I thought the state Constitution forbid giving payment when services are not provided, giving away public funds. Maybe they can start by reducing their own pay, what a novel idea.

noname
noname

Oh, and FORGET the Headquarters landfill idea and the thousands being spent of it.

boo
boo

How about just doing a layoff? Forget about buyouts, early or otherwise. I didn't have that option when I lost my job. Why should they get special privileges or options?

working man
working man

her we go again. Cowlitz county management protecting there own. buy outs for the top and forget the rest. this county needs some serious restructuring, it is management bloated. a lot of people would be shocked to learn managers at the county have received at least 15 percent pay increase in the last four years. they did it by restructuring pay steps. at the same time they asked workers to take days off without pay.

panzer
panzer

noname, One correction to your second post, one that should make readers more upset: The Commissioner's HQ landfill purchase and leachate pipeline construction spending will not be merely thousands of our county's taxpayer dollars. It will be somewhere beyond $40 million. Now divide the present taxpayers in Cowlitz County and you will shake your head in disbelief. Remember this when you cast your next County Commissioner ballot & pass the word. See the County's website - details matter.

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