Warner Robins employees could retire earlier under proposal

City employees might get to retire earlier under a change that City Council is considering.

At its meeting set for Dec. 19, the council is scheduled to vote on whether to allow employees to retire after 30 years, regardless of age. Currently, firefighters and police officers can retire with full benefits only after reaching age 55, while the retirement age is 60 for other city employees.

But with the proposed change, retirement can be done after 30 years of service regardless of age, although employees can also choose to continue working.

Mayor Randy Toms said it helps employees because they have another option on when to retire, while it may also save the city money. He said that’s because when employees with many years of experience retire, the city may be able to hire younger employees at a lower cost.

Retirement pay comes through a separate system so when an employee retires, that removes that salary from the city payroll, Toms said. That’s why the city could save money, particularly over “early out” offers the city has done in the past to reduce payroll costs. Toms himself took an early out offer when he retired after 27 years with the fire department.

“It kind of balances out the budget a little bit, and then you give people the opportunity to move up the ladder as well,” he said.

He said only about a dozen employees could now be eligible for earlier retirement under the change, and he didn’t think many — perhaps none — would take advantage of it.

Councilman Mike Davis, also a retired city firefighter, had questions about the cost of the change when it was brought up at a Dec. 5 meeting, but he was satisfied that the change will not hurt the city financially.

“The way they explained, the cost is minimal,” he said. “If it doesn’t cost us anything, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Currently when city employees retire, the maximum they would receive is 60 percent of their salary, which is why Davis and Toms said they didn’t expect many people would take advantage of the change.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1