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Mahoning auditor: Worker buyouts add up to savings

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham says offering a buyout to auditor’s office employees with between 15 and 35 years of service, who are at least 55 years old, will save the county money.

Six of his employees took the buyout last year, the first year it was offered. The option was added in negotiations for the employee union’s most recent three-year contract.

“The county will save money, the department will save money,” Meacham said. “We’ll save money because people leaving make more than people coming in. We’ll save health care money because people leaving are using more health care. They are older than the people coming in.”

Meacham said his department also is saving money because the total number of employees in his department dropped by one.

The county auditor’s office can get by with one fewer employee because the auditor’s office no longer has duties associated with tangible personal property taxes, which the state phased out.

“With the cooperation and agreement with the union, we dropped one full-time (position),” Meacham said. Reducing his staff by one person will reduce costs by nearly $100,000 per year.

Each person taking the buyout receives a half year’s worth of base wages spread out over three years.

That means the person receives about 16 percent of a single year of salary each of three years. Other severance payments, including payments for sick leave and vacation pay, are also rolled into the three years’ worth of payments.

Meacham said he thinks the buyouts will begin to generate savings for the county starting in 2022.

County officials said they are aware of one other department that has a buyout policy.

The Mahoning County Sanitary Engineer’s Office has had a buyout program for at least eight years, said Pat Ginnetti, the county’s sanitary engineer and county engineer. It was in place when Ginnetti started managing the department, he said.

Under that plan, a person is paid one year of base salary spread out over five years.

He believes three sanitary engineer employees retired last year. Two of the three participated in the buyout, but he’s not sure about the third one, Ginnetti said.

The reason for having such a policy is the same as the one Meacham discussed, Ginetti said. It saves the county money because it allows the county to hire someone at a lower pay rate than the one who leaves.

The plan for the sanitary engineer’s office has a provision requiring the employee’s sick leave and vacation leave to be rolled into the buyout payments over five years.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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