NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk is set to offer 91 non-uniformed employees an early retirement opportunity, in an effort to cut expenses given COVID-19.
“We’re looking out for taxpayers, to try to identify cost savings that will help our taxpayers. It’s a much better plan than just initially jumping to layoffs and furloughs at this time, because that would negatively impact vital city services and we really want to try to avoid doing that,” Common Council President Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) said at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
The Council went on to vote 13-0-1 in favor of the Early Retirement Incentive program, with Darlene Young (D-District B) recusing herself and Ernie Dumas (D-District B) absent.
“This is an opportunity that we have right now to streamline the city services to try to downsize and save money to avoid those layoffs that Miss Smyth just mentioned, or furloughs,” Mayor Harry Rilling said.
Employees who are more than 55 years old and have at least 10 years of service to Norwalk are eligible to “gain three years of additional service credit, and, if they are younger than 62 years of age, any early retirement pension penalty will be waived,” a press release from Norwalk Communications Manager Josh Morgan explained. Norwalk Police and Fire Department employees are not eligible.
“Some of the positions will not be filled, the majority can be filled at a lesser salary range, and a small number may need to be filled at the same salary range,” the press release said.
“Based upon our experience with doing a program like this 10 or 11 years ago, we project about 30 employees will probably take this program,” Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney said.
Employees have three weeks to opt in and then will leave the workforce in early October, he said.
Rilling noted in the press release that, “We won’t fully realize the economic impact (of the coronavirus) to the City until October and January when tax collections are completed. Thankfully, we have safeguards in place with a healthy fund balance and have planned contingencies this year and next fiscal year to weather this storm.”
“The city has continued to be financially sound at this time,” Smyth said during the meeting. “But we don’t know what the future holds. And I would like to commend Mayor Rilling and his staff for being proactive before we really do feel those effects.”
Plus, no one knows what’s coming in the pandemic, Rilling said.
“We could possibly see another surge in coronavirus cases,” he said. “If you listen to the epidemiologists and you listen to the medical professionals who study these trends, they see these things happening already. We see what happened in Danbury…. We’re fortunate in the city of Norwalk. Our numbers of cases based on our population, we’re the lowest of all the major cities. We’re fortunate that we have that we are fiscally sound.”