October 25, 2016

Grains of Salt (v17): Retirement Planning

Is it really only here, in Onondaga County, that the government could offer an incentive to retire to - wait for it -- elected officials?

I kid you not.

They did make the offer, and as luck would have it,we have a member of the Onondaga County Legislature - Kathy Rapp - who's going to take the $10,000 incentive and run.

I. Kid. You. Not.

Here's how it all played out:
  • Back in August, the County came up with the buyout package for certain employees who left by the end of the year. The intent of the package was to save the county oodles of noodles for each of the up to 800 eligibles who took the offer.  They cost the county around $50K,each, so give them $10K to get out, and voila -- we've got a $40K savings per retiree!
  • Not surprisingly, looking at the numbers, the Legislature unanimously approved the buyout deal in September- one lawmaker missed the meeting, or it the vote would have likely been 17-0 in favor. The person missing? Kathy Rapp.
  • And in October, Rapp advised she's going to retire at the end of the year. 
Cha-ching! There's another $40K for the county coffers, right?  Well, not exactly.

Rapp, who is the county's longest-serving legislator, has a year left to go in her term -- and since it would be unfair to leave her constituents without representation, her position will have to be filled, there go the savings we were supposed to get. And, the way the rules work, her constituents won't actually make the decision on her replacement. That will be left up to the County Executive.

Onondaga County previously offered a buyout, several years back, and that one correctly excluded elected officials. This time around, instead of just using a state law for the retirement incentive proposal, they wrote one of their own, which did not have the exclusion. As long as the person was vested in the pension system, and the they be eligible for retirement benefits.  When Rapp's name, and that of a couple of other elected officials appeared on the list of eligibles, it was an Aha! moment, according to today's article.

Aha, indeed.

How exactly do you un-ring a cha-ching? I don't know that you do -- I think the trick is to not ring it in the first place, if it doesn't ring true.

Rapp can retire, and spend time with her grandchildren. OnJoanie can appoint her replacement. And folks in the county law department, and their outside counsel, can fight over who missed the part about the elected officials.

And Casey Jordan, one of the elected officials who's eligible for but not taking the deal, can have his comment made into a plaque for everyone's office.
We're voting in support of this incentive, and it seems self-serving to be approving it and then taking advantage at the same time.
I kid you not.