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THURSDAY, AUGUST 4, 2005
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EDITORIAL

If serious about incentive, Morgan must stick to plan

With a look toward anticipated budget tightening in 2006, Morgan County commissioners are making noises about offering financial incentives to encourage eligible employees to retire.

It would be better to pay longtime employees who earn higher salaries and will retire soon anyway, than to have to lay off younger workers, commissioners reason.

Plus, District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark noted it would be a way to eliminate positions.

While the commissioners did not set an amount, the figure $5,000 was suggested.

"I don't think a small incentive would change a lot of people's minds," Chairman John Glasscock said.

Glasscock is right: $5,000 is not going to convince many employees to retire.

If the commissioners are serious about cutting expenses by reducing payroll, then a retirement incentive could be a valuable tool — if it is legal and they offer a sufficient amount.

The commission has asked the county attorney to research the possibility.

If the county offers a retirement incentive, commissioners must maintain their primary objective — eliminating payroll by eliminating positions. If commissioners pay the incentive and then decide to fill the vacancies, they will have wasted the money. If they stick to the plan, taxpayers will see the savings each and every year.

The county must also avoid paying deferred bonuses to key employees to keep them from retiring. The state fell into that trap with its myopic Deferred Retirement Option Program after a buyout left it with too few experienced employees.

If Morgan County is going to offer a retirement incentive, commissioners had better be prepared to do it right.

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