Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) foresees problems for the beleaguered Department for Children and Families if a big chunk of its experienced workforce takes advantage of a retirement incentive that the state has offered.
Based on a preliminary tally, 27 DCF employees want to take the incentive and retire — potentially within the next two weeks. The final count will be available by the end of the month.
The retirement incentive was offered to 900 state employees, and 311 applied to take it. The legislature has authorized giving the incentive to a maximum of 300 employees to pare the state workforce and save $2.6 million in the budget year that began July 1.
Treasurer Beth Pearce, whose office oversees the incentive, reported to the legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee Tuesday that 39 people had withdrawn after applying. More might still change their minds, she said, noting that in 2009, when the state offered a similar incentive, 245 took it after more than 300 applied.
Although the final roster of who will retire isn't set, it is clear that several departments will take big hits. The largest number of potential retirees is within the Agency of Transportation — 50 as of Tuesday.
The Department for Children and Families is next at 27, followed by Corrections at 20 and Environmental Conservation at 15.
"You take another 20 to 30 workers out of DCF and you are going to a create huge problem for those who are left," Sears said, noting the department was already struggling to fill vacancies.
"There is nothing we can do to change the number at DCF," said Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais).
Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) reminded her colleagues that a quarter of the vacated slots could be refilled and the administration would be able to prioritize critical positions.
Pearce told lawmakers that while the program calls for employees to leave state employment by October 1, it also allows the administration to stagger departures, if necessary, up to March.