Village documents show a half-dozen or more top-level administrators qualify for the village of Oak Park's one-year early-retirement incentive, with some departments possibly set to lose multiple longtime staffers.
When the village board approved the incentive last month, trustees arguing for approval of the measure said longtime employees deserved the incentive and eagerly awaited its passage. But some village administrators worry about how the loss of employees with years of service will affect their departments.
"I assume for the employees who want to retire it's a good thing," said Sandra Sokol, village clerk.
Sokol and Jan Jankowski, who works in the clerk's office, qualify for the incentive.
Losing Jankowski "would be a huge impact on the clerk's office," she said. "It would be a huge loss to the clerk's office and the village. He's an excellent employee."
Sokol said she understands and respects the board's decision to approve the program. "I know that they don't do this lightly."
Sokol, who won re-election in April, was asked whether she would fulfill the remainder of her term. "I assume so," she said, adding that she had no plans "at this time" to retire.
Village Engineer Jim Budrick said he would not begin considering taking early retirement until next spring, when he plans to discuss the matter with his wife and his accountant. Still young, and with a 6-year-old daughter, Budrick said he'd like to keep working.
Two other engineering department employees qualify for the incentive, too. To take advantage of the plan, those qualifying must announce their retirement by October 2006.
Village Manager Carl Swenson said that even if every qualifying employee decided to take the incentive, those employees would give ample time for training a replacement. Swenson expects the plan to work smoothly, as was the case when a similar incentive was given to employees of the village's police department.
Swenson, who would qualify for the incentive with transferred years of government service in the state of Washington, said he had not decided whether he would take the incentive. He said that although Oak Park employees who take the incentive could not work for another municipality in Illinois after retirement, they could work for a municipality in another state.
He said the retirement incentive's impetus came from discussion on cost savings, and that the decision to step down would be made by each employee. Swenson scoffed at the idea that the program was politically motivated.
Village President David Pope, in voting against approval of the incentive, doubted whether the plan would save taxpayers money.