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Select OUS staff eligible for buyout

IRONTON — A handful of faculty and staff members at Ohio University Southern could be eligible for an early retirement buyout as part of a cost-cutting procedure introduced last week by Ohio University President Roderick McDavis in an attempt to slash costs in a weakening economy.

The buyout package, first announced to the OUS workforce as part of a March 6 Webcast, allows faculty and staff who are members of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) to allow the university to purchase additional service credits for eligible employees.

Those additional credits can enable an employee to retire early or retire with a larger benefit package than they otherwise might have had.

Ohio University has labeled the buyout package, the Early Retirement Incentive Plan (ERIP). It is a voluntary plan and comes on the heels of grim news that layoffs are pending throughout the Ohio University education system.

Ohio University-Southern Interim Dean Bill Willan said he “estimates” five to 10 faculty and staff members at the Ironton campus would be eligible for the ERIP, but added that a firm number would probably be supplied to him next week from human resources at the main campus in Athens.

Officials in Athens announced Wednesday that 300 classified and administrative staff members at both their main and regional campuses would be eligible to participate.

The buyout window is from April 1 through Aug. 31 with those electing to retire by May 31 earning a $5,000 incentive bonus.

Eligibility is based on certain age and longevity criteria. Employees are considered eligible if they are currently or become eligible to retire due to the one-year buyout based on having:

Five years of service at age 60

Twenty-Five years of service at age 55

Thirty years of service at any age

Ohio law doesn’t permit public employers from purchasing more than 20-percent of an employee’s state service credit thus limiting those eligible from at least having five years service to receive the one-service credit buyout.

Additionally, employees would be eligible if they met the age and service criteria during the five month open period or purchased additional service credits on their own on top of the one the university would offer.

Those who retire after June 1 would be eligible for the additional year of service credit, but no incentive bonus.

Ohio University officials said they would not know for several weeks the number of layoffs the university will have to make saying that decision will be based on the number of employees who choose the ERIP.