Kansas City is moving forward with plans for an incentive package meant to persuade about 30 senior firefighters to retire.
The City Council’s Finance and Governance Committee on Wednesday endorsed a sick-leave payout that the full council will consider today.
“It would be a good time to retire,” Committee Chairwoman Jan Marcason said.
The city is trying to reduce its firefighting ranks to save long-term payroll costs, but doing so probably will involve a hefty up-front payment.
In the past, firefighters eligible to retire got a payout of 50 percent of the value of their sick leave when they left the city. Under this new incentive, they would be entitled to a 100-percent payout. The highest payout under this program, according to the city, would be $153,987. The average for those eligible to retire would be $134,317.
The incentive is available to the fire chief, deputy chiefs, battalion chiefs, captains and firefighters, including drivers. The city assumes people close to retirement and with the largest sick leave amounts will consider taking advantage of it.
Human Resources Director Gary O’Bannon said the city won’t know the total program cost until the sign-up period concludes on July 31.
The city has budgeted about $1.5 million for a retirement incentive. If everyone eligible for the sick leave incentive takes it, the cost could exceed $4 million. But many veterans may keep working a few more years to take advantage of recent salary increases and bolster their pensions.
Cuts to the Fire Department dominated this year’s budget discussions. The city also feared it would have to shut down two fire companies and close at least one fire station. But the city just learned it will receive a $4.5 million, two-year federal grant to keep those companies operating. Since it’s not permanent, city officials said they still need to pare firefighting costs.