By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer

Oneida County legislators are being asked to approve state-authorized retirement incentives to employees.

The state plan is available to local governments across New York. Some have already approved offering the incentive to their employees if they retire by the end of the year, others have rejected it and still more, like Oneida County, haven’t made a decision yet.

The attraction is the opportunity to save money by having more highly paid, veteran employees retire early and replacing them with lower-paid workers or simply eliminating posts that become vacant, says County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. The are no requirements to eliminate jobs that become vacant through retirements.

"The only requirement is we show a 50 percent reduction in base salary over two years," he said.

Personnel Commissioner John Talerico said upfront costs and long-term savings won’t be known until after the number of retirees is known. On paper, upwards of 500 employees — the county budget has 1,635 positions — are eligible for the incentives, but he expects nowhere that many to actually sign up because the offer is broad and reaches people who may not be thinking about retirement yet.

He noted that in some instances employees as young as age 50 would be covered by the incentives.

The commissioner said a more realistic projection might be in the range of 100 to 130 possible retirees.

Eligible employees can get extra credits from the state retirement system, in which the county is a participant. Workers must formally indicate their intention to retire between Oct. 1 and Dec. 29 to receive an incentive.

Picente said if the Board of Legislators approves the incentives on Wednesday, eligible employees will be notified shortly thereafter in hopes of getting an early indication of the likely participation level. The hope is that at least some estimated savings can be calculated and built into the 2011 budget. Picente will submit his spending plan for next year to the legislature no later than Oct. 5.

Components of the temporary incentives are:

ª Some public employees could retire without a pension reduction due to early retirement at age 55 and the completion of 25 years of service. Most often public employees need to serve 30 years by the time they are 55 to get a full benefit or work until ¿ A separate part of the same state legislation allows workers 50 and older to retire with one additional month of service credit for each year of service. So, an employee with 24 years of service would get two extra years in pension credit. The maximum extra credit is three years.

Last year the lure of a cash payment in exchange for retirement hooked 63 county workers, including several department heads. Talerico said about 320 employees could have taken advantage of the county-offered incentive.

Also tomorrow, the Board of Legislators will take up Mohawk Valley Community College’s proposed budget of $47.8 million, an increase of 6.1 percent. The total includes a county contribution of $7.3 million, the same as this year and last year.

College trustees have already set tuition at $3,400 for two semesters starting in the fall and $120 per credit hour for part-time students.

The college budget before legislators reflects a reduction of more than $1 million from what was initially proposed. The college went back and trimmed the plan in response to the state cutting student aid more than had been anticipated. A cut of $130 per full-time student was expected, but in the end it was $415.

The legislators meet at 2 p.m. at the County Office Building in Utica. Ways & Means Committee meets at 11 a.m.