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State sets guidelines for employee buyout plan

August 12, 2009
By CHRIS KNIGHT, Enterprise Senior Staff Writer

State agencies have submitted their initial work force reduction plans to the Paterson administration as part of a proposal to cut 4,500 employees from the state payroll through a one-time severance package.

The state is providing a $20,000 payment to some employees who agree to voluntarily leave the state work force, but they must have at least 10 years of service or be eligible for retirement.

Which positions would be eliminated is being kept confidential.

Matt Anderson, spokesman for the state Division of the Budget, said agencies submitted plans last week outlining the jobs they can cut through the severance package, by not filling vacancies resulting from natural attrition and by eliminating vacant positions that are currently funded.

"Agencies are putting forward plans to us in terms of how they believe they will hit their workforce reduction targets through those three main avenues," Anderson said. "We're going to work collaboratively with them to achieve as much savings as possible."

The state agencies affected are only those under the control of the governor, a list that includes the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Correctional Services, the Adirondack Park Agency, the Department of Transportation and the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Gov. David Paterson had originally proposed 8,700 layoffs as a way to deal with the state's budget problems. That plan was scrapped after state officials worked with the public employee unions on a deal that includes a severance plan.

"The original plans envisioned significant layoffs," Anderson said. "These buyouts are a means to try to avoid layoffs as much as possible in this difficult economy."

Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, said his union supports the buyout incentive because it will prevent layoffs and save jobs for the union's membership.

"The whole objective for this all along for us was to maintain essential services and keep our people working," Madarasz said.

While the state expects about 4,500 workers will take the buyout, saving an estimated $173 million, Anderson said the state work force could be cut even further through attrition and the elimination of funded vacancies.

He said it's too early to provide specifics on how many state workers in the North Country could be offerred a buyout.

"We're still working with the agencies to finalize which positions will be eliminated and which titles will receive severances," he said.

Madarasz said the process of getting the severance plan in place has taken longer than expected, likely because the Paterson administration was distracted for much of the month of June due to a leadership struggle in the Senate.

One concern he's heard, Madarasz said, is that the buyout is mostly being given to management-level employees. If that's happening, he sees it as a plus for the union's membership.

"The economics of it are that, for every management person they offer this incentive to, it saves four CSEA jobs," he said. "If they are able to thin the ranks of highly paid management personnel, that's going to be a good thing for the people who are providing the services."

Anderson said the Division of Budget is hoping to have the buyouts finalized by the end of August. The workers who will be taking a buyout have to be off the state payroll by Nov. 11.

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Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.

 
 

 

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