Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tennessee mails out buyout offers

By THEO EMERY • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • June 17, 2008 State workers will begin checking mailboxes after buyout packets went out Monday to about 12,000 employees, an effort to trim about 2,000 positions and cut $64 million from next year's budget. Cleatrice McTorry, director of pre-release services at the Department of Correction, wasn't sure she would get an offer but said she would consider it if she did, particularly given the tuition assistance in the package. "My initial impression when I saw the buyout plan was very positive," said McTorry, 58. "Other people have felt the same way." The buyouts are part of a broader budget-cutting for the administration, which found itself about $468 million short of what it projected for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The administration hopes that more than 2,000 workers, or about 5 percent of the work force, will take the buyouts. If more apply, they will be chosen by seniority. If not enough apply, layoffs could follow. The package includes four months of base salary, $500 for each year of service, six months of subsidized health coverage and an option to pay for an additional 12 months. The packages also include tuition aid up to $10,800 at Tennessee colleges and universities, and a one-time $2,400 payment for those 65 and older. "We feel like we've come up with a really good offer," said state Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz. Zoyle Jones, president of the Tennessee State Employees Association, said his organization will be carefully watching. "As long as the selection process is fair and equitable, then we will be happy if people take it," he said.

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