Ahoskie offers employee severance package

Published 10:57 am Monday, July 17, 2017

AHOSKIE – At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Ahoskie Town Council approved a three-month severance package offer to any town employee with the exception of those in law enforcement.

The proposal came on the recommendation of Town Manager Kerry McDuffie, who called the measure a way of reducing costs, something that will aid in bringing the town’s finances in line.

“Alluding to the financial concerns of the town, we need to figure out a way to reduce our operating costs,” McDuffie informed the Council.

McDuffie said roughly $475,000 is needed to be cut from the current fiscal year’s budget in order to have the amount of cash flow at year’s end that the town should have.

The Town Manager said the options available were – in no particular order – to cut services, raise fees, or to reduce town departmental personnel.

“I don’t want to go in and start letting folks go,” McDuffie said.

Instead, he proposed a three-month severance package available to any town employees – excluding law enforcement personnel – that would be interested in taking early retirement. They would receive their full salary for the period in question.

“We do not need to cut back on our police department at this time,” he noted. “If there are some folks who desire to take advantage of this we would then not have to replace those folks and could then move some folks around to cover those duties. It would be an ideal way to reduce some of the town’s operating costs.”

McDuffie said there is a deadline of July 31 for any employees interested in taking advantage of the offer.

“It would be three months of salary, and they could take it over a three-month period or a lump sum payout over one month,” he proposed.

McDuffie did note it would be three months before the town would actually see any savings accrued through the reduction in the work force.

When asked if any town employees had expressed interest in the proposal, he admitted that, to date, no one had.

“This is not immediate savings, but a long-term thought process,” McDuffie said.

Some Council members questioned if there were a specific number of personnel that would take advantage.

“It could be three, six, or none,” wondered Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse. “But we would be making the offer and it’s left up to the individual whether to take advantage of it.”

Councilwoman Linda Blackburn said if the deadline came and no town personnel took advantage of it, the town could consider other options; but that decision would have to be made later and at the Council’s discretion.

McDuffie said, for example, he would not want to extend the deadline beyond the end of the calendar year because of the effect on potential job applicants, as well as what it would have on the current salary structure.

“Let’s see what we get for the next three weeks before thinking about leaving it out there for a longer time,” he said.

When asked in discussion if this offer was for people who were about to retire or any employees, the Town Manager

re-iterated that it was a blanket offer to all.

Stackhouse then made a motion that any town employee who is not law enforcement, per their manager’s approval, be eligible for the severance package until July 31. The motion was seconded by Councilman Charles Freeman.

Councilman Charles Reynolds expressed his skepticism at the proposal.

“I think we need to re-think this a little bit.” Reynolds said.

“When you put an offer on the board, I think people need to know what you’re offering.”

“No one’s being forced into it,” answered Stackhouse. “It couldn’t be any clearer what he’s offering.”

Mayor Jimmie Rowe then called for a vote and the motion passed by a 4-1 margin, with Reynolds casting the only ‘no’ vote on the proposal.