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Swift County approves early retirement offer

The Swift County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to offer an early retirement option to employees with 15 or more years of service.

BENSON — The Swift County Board of Commissioners agreed to offer an early retirement incentive for employees with 15 or more years of service.

The commissioners at their meeting Tuesday approved by a 4-1 vote a one-time early retirement offer for 2021 . It’s offered with expectations that any retirements that occur as a result of the offer would be staggered.

Commissioner Edward Pederson cast the only no vote. Chairman Gary Hendricxk and commissioners Eric Rudningen, Peter Peterson and Joe Fox voted for it.

The county is offering to pay one year of health insurance premiums plus one year of single Voluntary Employment Benefit Association coverage for employees with 15 to 19 years of service. The county will pay two years of health insurance premiums and two years of single VEBA contributions for those with 20 to 29 years of service. It will pay three years of health insurance premiums and three years of single VEBA contribution for those with 30 or more years.

The total cost if all eligible employees took retirement would be $327,300, based on an average of around $2,600 of one-year cost for each retirement, according to information provided to the commissioners by Amanda Ness, human resources coordinator.

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There are 44 employees out of a workforce of 140 with 15 years or more of service to the county.

It is not known how many employees may be interested in the offer. The commissioners emphasized that it was a voluntary program.

Pederson said the county offers an excellent benefits package to its employees. He expressed concerns about the early retirement option’s possible cost to the county. He pointed out that the county is looking at the possibility of tapping reserve funds to pay for it, depending on how many take advantage of it.

There is also the possibility the county could realize overall cost savings if some workers accept the early retirement option and are replaced by new hires, according to information previously provided to the commissioners.

The early retirement opportunity was initially made as a goodwill gesture following negotiations with non-union employees, according to Rudningen. He and other commissioners agreed that the county offers excellent benefits to employees.

The commissioner said the early retirement offer benefits the county as well as employees. It gives the county the opportunity to plan ahead and adapt job descriptions for any positions that become vacant. It would enhance the county’s ability to work toward its restructuring goals, Rudningen noted.

Hendrickx said he also appreciated the opportunity it provides for enhancing the organizational structure. He said the county is not looking to encourage anyone to take early retirement. He added that it could benefit employees who may have health issues but are hesitant to retire due to concerns about health insurance.

County Administrator Kelsey Baker said county administration and department heads would work with employees accepting the early retirement offer to work toward a retirement date. The date would be set so that there is time to evaluate if a position needs to be restructured.

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