Rise in retirements eases layoffs in The City 

A massive wave of city worker retirements — almost double the amount of last year — will stave off layoffs and save millions of dollars for San Francisco.

City officials are predicting that some 2,000 employees will retire come July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. That, combined with frozen positions, is estimated to save San Francisco roughly $18 million and offset 190 layoffs, according to the mayor’s budget office.

On Tuesday, Newsom proposed a $6.48 billion city and county budget, which calls for 350 layoffs and significant spending cuts. Overall, the budget eliminates 855 positions, bringing the total number of city employees to about 26,000. The number of layoffs was expected to be as high as 425 to help close a $483 million budget shortfall. The retirements, however, brought that number down.

Still, the number of retirements next year remains a moving target, since employees have until July 1 to officially decide whether they want to retire or not, said Greg Wagner, the mayor’s budget director.

That means San Francisco could face more or fewer retirements than officials had projected, Wagner said.

“It’s a good thing to the extent that it provides a way for us to produce salary savings without layoffs,” he said. “But it’s difficult because we lose institutional knowledge.”

On average, San Francisco has 1,100 retirements annually, according to Gary A. Amelio, executive director of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System.

This year, The City is expecting almost twice as many retirements as it had in previous years. Although city officials are not permitted to ask why employees are retiring, Amelio said, anecdotally, there are plenty of reasons workers would want to leave now.

The Wellness Program — a benefit in which employees can cash out their accrued unused sick time once they have retired — sunsets this year, which means retirees will no longer receive those funds, Amelio said.

In addition, the ongoing labor negotiations that ended in 12 furlough days for most employees might have influenced those who are on the fence to retire, he said.

“When you go through what employees have gone through with the layoffs notices and now the 12 furlough days coming, that can be upsetting to individuals,” Amelio said.



Savings outlook

San Francisco could cash in through city workers leaving their jobs.

- City employs 26,000 people
- An estimated 2,000 will retire
- Retirements will help save $18.1 million
- Retirements are expected to thwart 190 layoffs

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Erin Sherbert

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