Politics & Government

Macon-Bibb to mull retirement incentives Tuesday

Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration wants 200 Macon-Bibb County employees to choose retirement by the June 30 end of the fiscal year.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Macon-Bibb commissioners will discuss ideas for encouraging people to make that choice.

At the suggestion of Commissioner Elaine Lucas, the nonvoting work session will be held in the main commission chamber, 700 Poplar St., so there’s enough room for any Macon-Bibb workers who want to come.

The government is facing a shortfall in its upcoming budget that may reach $10 million, due largely to the promised removal of the second half of the former Macon city property tax. Reichert pledged to end the tax with the consolidation of city and county governments.

The first half came off in the budget year that started in July 2014. The rest, he has said, will end this July.

That has Finance Department employees looking hard for ways to trim a budget that was already cut last year. If enough can’t be found through retirements and other cutbacks, Reichert and County Manager Dale Walker have said, the alternatives are layoffs and/or some new or higher tax.

Out of about 2,000 total Macon-Bibb employees, there are 360 eligible to retire, with the majority concentrated in the Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department, according to Julie Moore, assistant to the county manager for budget and planning.

The administration is working on incentives to encourage 200 of those eligible to retire, Moore has told commissioners.

Macon-Bibb has three retirement plans -- one active plan that new employees are enrolled in, one closed plan for former Macon police and firefighters, and one closed plan for other former Macon employees -- so the incentives will vary depending on each plan’s provisions, Moore said.

But in general, ideas include temporarily offering a subsidy for post-retirement health insurance; temporarily increasing the multiplier used to calculate pension payments; and offering a “bridge” of service credit to those not quite eligible for retirement.

While many of the employees would need to be replaced, some jobs would be left unfilled and others would be filled by newcomers at lower rates of pay. Some of the incentive costs would be borne by the independent pension funds, not the Macon-Bibb budget.

Moore said that after commissioners indicate their preference for particular incentives Tuesday, the administration intends to have a resolution ready for a first vote at the regular commission meeting April 7. The incentives would require two rounds of approval to go into effect.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.