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Published: Friday, 1/17/2003

Lucas Co. enacts early-retire plan for welfare office

Some employees of Lucas County's welfare department will have the chance to retire early through a program the county commissioners hope will save about $22 million over five years.

The commissioners approved the early-retirement plan yesterday with the aim that it will reduce the staff of Lucas County Job and Family Services from about 530 employees to 430.

It is a more aggressive approach to an attrition plan the department discussed in April that was expected to trim 55 jobs in two years.

“We would lose some good, experienced employees, but it's a reflection of the economy and an understanding of the numbers the department needs to provide services to the community,” Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said.

Commissioner Maggie Thurber called it a “win-win situation.” She said people aren't being forced out of their jobs, and the department can save money by reducing its payroll.

“It will allow individuals who want to retire to retire, and it will permanently reduce the staff there,” she said.

A.T. Hudson, a New Jersey-based consulting firm, found after an 18-month study of the department that it had too many employees. The commissioners and department leaders have been discussing how to deal with the issue for more than a year.

Edward Ciecka, the county's administrator, said the program will start in April and last for one year. He said 166 people are eligible.

Kevin Milliken, the county's spokesman, said 85 percent of eligible employees have taken advantage of early retirement plans in other governmental agencies around the state. The Lucas County plan would add up to four years of service to the number of actual years an eligible employee has worked.

Cheryl Tyler-Folsom, a staff representative of Local 544 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said she's not sure how many employees will retire early through the program. She said other union issues kept her from being involved in discussions about the program yesterday.

“There have been rumors going around for months, and some [employees] are very interested in that,” she said.

Harry Barlos, president of the commissioners, said the program would be paid for by the money that the welfare department would save in salary and benefits. The net savings is estimated to be $21.7 million over five years, he said.

“Money that could be spent in the community was being spent on payroll and benefits,” he said.

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