Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Knox Co. employees offered incentive buyouts; about 90 to 100 eligible

Knox County is offering voluntary incentive buyouts to some of its long-time employees in what officials are calling a cost-cutting move that could save at least $1.6 million annually.

“It’s a cost-saving measure as well as an effort by the mayor to reduce the footprint of government,” said Michael Grider, the county’s communications director. "It's part of the mayor's conservative fiscal philosophy."

The county made the offer last week to some 800 employees but the plan will more than likely affect only 90 to 100 workers, said finance Director Chris Caldwell.

The move could "conservatively" cost about $1 million, but also save $1.6 million in that first year.

The goal, however, is to trim staffing by 25 to 50 positions, Caldwell said.

"Each employee has to determine if they want to apply," Caldwell said. "We are not targeting jobs. We are seeing who applies and then which positions those departments or fee offices can live without."

To qualify, employees must have at least 15 years of fulltime service with the county, a fee office or the sheriff's office. The buyouts do not apply to the school system.

The position also has to be one that goes unfilled or if it is filled, then the another job must be cut.

“The idea is not to let people retire early and incentivize that and then have to refill the position,” Grider said. “The idea is to save money.”

Employees who are approved will receive: three months of salary; a $300 payment for each full year of service; $3,000 to assist with medical coverage transition; health insurance for six months; and payment for accrued and unused vacation time.

When asked what brought about the move, Caldwell said: “The mayor is always looking for ways to save money and reduce government. It is not uncommon. The state has done this program in the past. It’s very similar to that."

Employees have until March 3 to apply. Caldwell said a number of workers have submitted requests so far but officials have not begun processing them.

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