Gahanna City Council is considering legislation that could save the city $1.3-million over five years by offering early retirement incentives.

Gahanna City Council is considering legislation that could save the city $1.3-million over five years by offering early retirement incentives.

The city's administration has been examining the issue for months, and employees from four departments are poised to be offered the incentive, Kristen Treadway, director of human resources, said during council's Aug. 23 finance committee meeting.

Employees from the departments of public services, planning and development, parks and recreation and mayor's court would be eligible for the buyout.

Treadway said 14 people have expressed interest in the incentive through the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

"Over five years, it could save $1.3-million, depending on who takes the buyout," Treadway said.

The administration recommends offering plans to purchase two years of retirement. The savings of $1.3-million could be realized by not filling various positions or filling them at lesser pay rates than the more senior staff members currently in the positions, Treadway said.

"While it is unknown who will definitively participate in this plan, we believe savings may be obtained within the first two years," she said.

Council member Shane Ewald said the proposal is another step the city has taken to secure its financial future.

"There have been a lot of late evening discussions about this, and I appreciate your hard work on this," he said. "This is a cost-saving initiative."

The incentive plan must be sent to OPERS by the end of October to have a Jan. 1 effective date, so council likely will consider emergency legislation.

Council members debate

creation of revolving-loan fund

During the Aug. 23 meeting, council also debated the creation of an economic and community development fund that has been in the works for months. The development department recommended contracting with the nonprofit Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) to establish a $375,000 revolving-loan fund to assist existing small-business expansion and to attract small businesses to Gahanna.

Finance committee chairman David Samuel said the city has long needed such a fund.

Ewald said he appreciates the development department reaching out to businesses, but the city needs to prioritize spending.

"This is a risk," he said. "It's money that could be used for other things."

Councilman John McAlister said he wouldn't support it.

"It's money that could be used to run the city," he said. "Morally, I have a problem with it."

He said it would mean subsidizing businesses at the local level.

Council member Nancy McGregor said she opposes the idea.

"In times of a tight economy, I would like to see infrastructure improvements - things to make the city better for businesses coming in," she said.

Council president Tom Kneeland said the funds would come from revenue generated through the city's industrial zone.

"This is a fund that has been around since the '70s," he said. "We've all benefited from it. It's from payment in lieu of taxes in the industrial zone. That money has been banked over the years."

Councilman Brian Larick has questioned the proposal but said he has learned that the city is in a competitive environment to attract businesses.

"This is a tool to give the city a jump start," he said. "This brings long-term revenue to the city. I'll support it."

Council member Beryl Anderson said it's important to offer incentives to make businesses want to move to Gahanna.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said small business has needs, given the economic times.

"Every city in Ohio has to talk about job, job, jobs," she said. "We rely on income taxes. We took steps to minimize the risks the best we can."