Better buyout: Cuts in Peduto’s new plan should be in writing

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The latest version of Mayor Bill Peduto’s plan to ease out some longtime city employees is better than his first proposal, but incentive plan 2.0 is not perfect.

The plan that won tentative approval from city council on Thursday would not impact employee pensions, a significant improvement from the proposal that would have improperly jacked up those long-term benefits when the city can’t afford its existing obligations. Instead, departing nonunion, nonuniformed employees whose combined age and years of service total at least 70 could receive payments of two-and-a-half weeks of salary for every year worked, up to a maximum of one year’s salary.

The plan could be expensive, though, with figures entirely dependent on how many workers take the deal. If all 176 of those eligible say yes, the cost would be $8.8 million. Administration officials think that’s unlikely, especially because the package has no provisions for health care. The plan would give the new administration the hiring flexibility it wants and some insulation from the threat of lawsuits from dismissed workers who take the deal.

Kevin Acklin, Mr. Peduto’s chief of staff, says the administration has agreed not to fill one-third of the vacancies created, not in the number of positions but in the dollar value of the salaries. That is critical.

However, that commitment is not reflected in the measure that council approved, and it should be, especially because the money-saving piece feels like an afterthought since it wasn’t part of the mayor’s original pitch for buyouts. A promise is only as good as the paper it’s printed on, and council must be able to hold Mr. Peduto to it.

Many businesses have used similar methods to downsize their workforce and save money. If that is what the mayor hopes to accomplish, rather than simply offering a soft landing to workers who deserve the boot, there’s no reason to leave that detail out of council’s resolution.

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