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Early retirements could save Wadena County $217,000

The Wadena County early retirement incentive program is anticipated to provide a net savings of $217,000 during the next three years at social services, according to a proposal approved by the social services board.

Three long-term social services employees took advantage of a temporary $20,000 incentive the county offered eligible employees with 20 or more years of service for the county who retired under the program this fall. One employee, Sheila Henstorf, a financial specialist, was 9/10 full-time equivalent and will receive a prorated buy-out.

These employees' salaries were under the old merit system and are above the current pay scale, according to Paul Sailer, the county's human services director. And the county will get a bigger savings because of that.

Department heads are required to provide at least a 25 percent savings over three years when replacing employees who are receiving the retirement incentive. The social services plan to reduce salary expenses involves combining positions, promotions, reducing hours and hiring a lower step employee.

The department is hiring back 1.7 positions at lower salaries instead of the 2.9 positions, Sailer said.

The accounting technician position held by Beverly Savaloja will be replaced at 3.5 days per week with a pay level of up to step 5. The salary range for this grade 50 position is $2,079-$2,989 per month with a current salary of $3,256. An estimated $42,000 net savings is expected over the next three years, according to the proposal. The county is allowing up to step 5 for the position in order to help make up for the loss of a full-time position with experience, Sailer said.

The grade 52 financial specialist position held by Henstorf will be replaced by promoting two financial workers to financial specialists. The salary range is $2,514-$3,612 per month with a current salary of $4,016.

The board approved combining the financial assistance supervisor 1 position held by Ramona Jean Stokes with the administrative services supervisor position held by Pam Jenson. A pay equity study will be completed for the new position. The pay range for the grade 54 financial assistance supervisor position is $2,942-$4,230 per month with a current salary of $8,258. One new financial worker will be hired at step 1.

The county anticipates a net savings of $175,000 over three years for the changes made to the current financial specialist and financial assistance supervisor positions, Sailer said. The anticipated total net savings of $217,000 is a conservative estimate and will depend on the salary raises for the two promotions, the new combined supervisor position and what step the accounting technician position is hired at. The overall savings will exceed the 25 percent minimum requirement, according to Sailer. The agency expects further cuts in local government aid and other state grant funds. He also believes the consolidation of positions in the accounting and public assistance areas will continue to meet federal, state and county quality measures.

Two highway department employees have also opted for the early retirement incentive plan. Their positions are in the process of being replaced.

The county board approved the early retirement incentive plan in September as a way for the county to deal with difficult economic times. Around 35 county employees were eligible.