On August 25, 2020, the Common Council unanimously approved an Early Retirement Incentive for unionized non-uniformed City employees. In total, 91 employees are eligible, while the Norwalk Police and Fire Departments are not eligible for the program. Norwalk Mayor Harry W. Rilling said the Early Retirement Incentive “makes sense for Norwalk right now.”
“Due to COVID-19, we find ourselves in uncertain financial times. No doubt, this virus has had an impact on all of our lives. We won’t fully realize the economic impact 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,” Mayor Rilling said. “The Coronavirus situation, while thankfully holding steady in Norwalk, is unpredictable. What we are seeing in Danbury right now shows how quickly things can spiral out of control and change plans for school or sports. Given the uncertainty with COVID-19, we are being proactive in looking for cost-saving measures wherever we can, such as staffing.”
The Incentive is open to City employees over the age of 55 and who have at least 10 years of service time. By participating in the Early Retirement Incentive, an employee will 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. There are a wide range of positions across the 91 employees eligible for the Early Retirement Incentive. 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.
“I am fully supportive of this plan. I appreciate Mayor Rilling and his staff looking out for taxpayers by identifying cost-savings wherever they can. This plan is better than doing layoffs or furloughs since that course of action would negatively impact City services,” said Council President Barbara Smyth. “This plan allows for services to be kept at a high level while at the same time finding cost-savings during these uncertain times.”
The last time an Early Retirement Incentive was offered in Norwalk was in 2009 following the 2008 financial crisis. At that time, roughly 60 employees were eligible, and one-third participated. The program was successful in avoiding layoffs and furloughs and ultimately reducing staff levels. City officials expect approximately the same participation for the 2020 program.
“The final cost savings will be determined by who ultimately participates in the Incentive, but I am confident there will be savings. Whatever the costs of the Incentive are, I am committed to finding equal or greater savings,” Mayor Rilling said. “I want to thank my staff for working hard to bring this forward while centering the needs of Norwalk taxpayers, the Union Leadership for coming to the table to have these discussions, and the Council for its unanimous support.”
The Council vote was 13-0-1, as Council member Darlene Young recused herself, and Council member Ernest Dumas was absent. Eligible employees now have three to four weeks to opt-in to the Early Retirement Incentive before the program closes in September. Those who participate have an anticipated retirement date of October 9, 2020. A breakdown of employees who retired through the Early Retirement Incentive will be presented to the Common Council after October 9.