Retirements save money, reduce force experience
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A recent wave of early retirements will save the city thousands of dollars a year, but will leave the city short more than 200 years of collective experience.
The departures were prompted by early retirement incentives offered by the city to help close a projected $3.4 million shortfall in the 2009-2010 budget. The incentives included two additional years of California Public Employees Retirement System service credit, a $1,250 cash payment and up to 20 additional months of retiree health vesting.
Early retirements, freezing several open positions across city departments and laying off Engineering Technician Andrew Williams are expected to save the city $833,013 through the end of the fiscal year, and $947,045 annually, according to a November staff report from Human Resources Manager Janet Emmitt to City Manager David Jinkens.
Most of the early retirements came from longtime police officers and firefighters.
City employees who accepted early retirement offers include Building Official Ron Ticknor, Parks Supervisor Don Turner, Public Works Supervisor Mike Pollock, Fire Engineer Roger Koeck, Fire Captain Steve Ricioli, Fire Captain Jeff Valney, Police Officer Scott Willson, Police Officer Chuck Owens, Police Officer David Allen and Police Chief Terry Daniels.
While the experience of the retirees “will be missed,” new employees are expected to fill in the gaps, City Manager David Jinkens wrote in an e-mail.
“We have a wave of new, talented employees coming to work for city government who will serve us and the public well,” Jinkens said.
But not all of the city’s jobs will be coming back.
One building official job, the parks supervisor position and the public works supervisor position vacated by recent retirements will be filled through internal recruitment, and successful candidates’ prior positions will be held vacant on a long term basis, according to the November staff report.
“Obviously, we need to maintain some balance between very experienced and new employees, and I think we are doing so,” Jinkens said.
The retirements and frozen positions will increase the workload of employees who will see their work schedules cut by two days a month through September because of furloughs.
The furloughs, another cost-saving measure by the city, have caused frustration among city employees because many feel they can’t get the required work done “because people aren’t at work, said Jerry Copeland, a representative for the City’s Administrative, Confidential and Public Works Employees Associations, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
While the police department hasn’t been affected by furloughs, the department has been the heaviest hit by early retirements.
After a recent recovery from a personnel shortage during the past two years, the retirements have again caused staffing to become “very tight” at the police department, said Captain Martin Hewlett, who is serving as the acting chief of police following Daniels’ retirement.
One police officer position is frozen and the pace of the search for a permanent replacement for Daniels will be dictated by the city manager and City Council, Hewlett said.
One new officer, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, is going through pre-employment testing, Hewlett said. If successful, the officer could begin on-the-street training within 3 to 4 weeks, Hewlett said.
Testing for the second officer position will begin soon, but that officer won’t likely see an on-the-street training for two or three months, Hewlett said.
The experience of officers who retired can’t be replaced overnight, Hewlett said, and getting new employees into the department is critical.
“It’s very important to get this hiring process moving and get these people out on the street,” Hewlett said.
At the fire department, a succession plan should keep understaffing from persisting very long, said Fire Chief Lorenzo Gigliotti.
“What we’ve done is a pretty good job of succession planning as a result those people leaving,” Gigliotti said. “We have someone who stepped behind them and taken on the duties assigned to them.”
The department has also recruited three new firefighters from a pool of graduates from the Lake Tahoe Community College fire academy and outside the area, Gigliotti said. The fire chief expects the new firefighters to be on board “within the next 30 days.”