Thu. Jun 2nd, 2022

Public employees could take advantage of early retirement incentives under a bill being sponsored by two local lawmakers.

State Sen. Pete Harckham (D-South Salem) and state Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh), noting the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating financial impact, said their proposed legislation would allow local municipalities and the state to “streamline” their work forces.

This could, Harckham said, “create real savings across the board” and “open up job opportunities for residents in many instances.”

Those eligible would be 55 and older with 10 years of state service or public employees with 25 years of service.

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Democratic state Sen. Shelley B. Mayer of District 37, which includes the hamlet of Katonah, co-sponsored the bill.

A separate bill which covers early retirement for public employees in New York City also was introduced this year.

Under the bill, the retirements would be voluntary and would only apply to those whose positions can be eliminated without endangering the public’s welfare or affecting a certain level of service, such as garbage collection.

Positions could be eliminated for several reasons, including the economy, consolidation, abolition or curtailment of governmental activities.

Those eligible for the early retirement would be members of the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System; New York City Employees Retirement System; New York State Teachers Retirement System; New York City Teachers Retirement System and New York City Board of Education Retirement System. 

Members of police and fire retirement systems are not included because they are covered by service commitments of 20 or 25 years. Agency heads and elected officials also are not included.

Savings realized through the law, if passed, would at least be partially offset by costs to the pension system and its members, Harckham said.

Employers would determine eligibility, and employees would have 30 to 90 days to make a decision.

If a retiree were to reenter public service and join—or rejoin—any public retirement system, they would have to relinquish the early retirement incentive, Harckham said.

North Salem Supervisor Warren J. Lucas said Friday, Feb. 5, that he needed more time to determine exactly how the proposed program might benefit the town and its employees.

Unlike governmental entities the size of cities such as Yonkers, White Plains and New Rochelle, towns like North Salem have smaller staffs.

Lucas said the town has managed to keep costs under control despite this past year’s pandemic challenges. Still, he said, it will be “interesting” to see if the early retirement program can give it “more flexibility” in the future.

According to Tom Staudter of Harckham’s office, public interest in the proposed program is “high.”

James Gaine, a Mahopac resident who works in Brooklyn for the City University of New York, is among those who support it, the senator’s spokesman said Friday, Feb. 5.

Gaine is said to have reached out to Harckham’s office to say that he’d worked “many long hours and spent a lot of time away from home” and was ready to enjoy retirement with his family.

The new incentive, Gaine said, would allow him “to say goodbye, after 41 years, to my career as a carpenter and part-time educator in the public sector, and start a new chapter in my life.”

To read the entire bill, visit https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/S2722.

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