PULLMAN, Wash. – The Board of Regents unanimously approved a Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive (VERI) program at a special meeting held by teleconference Thursday.  The program applies only to members of the WSU Retirement Plan which includes faculty and the majority of administrative professional employees. 

The program is designed to help the university cut its payroll in response to ongoing reductions in state allocations.

President Elson S. Floyd said this is just one tool in an overall effort to address the impact of the proposed reduction in state allocations to WSU.  WSU will also be proposing a bill to the Legislature that would allow the university to offer the same kind of incentive to civil service and administrative professional employees who are members of a state or federal retirement system.

In upcoming weeks, the university will hold forums and seminars to further explain the proposal and answer questions from employees who might be interested in taking advantage of it.

Floyd and other WSU administrators developed the plan and shared an initial draft with the regents as a discussion item at the board’s meeting last month. The plan will be available to faculty and staff 55 years of age and older who have been members of the WSU Retirement Plan for at least 10 years. The university estimates that about 600 current employees will be eligible.

WSU will make a one-time payment of $18,000 into a tax-exempt medical expense plan for an employee who retires under the plan. Employees may apply for the incentive no earlier than March 1 and no later than May 31. Retirement must be effective no later than July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

“This is a proactive and comprehensive approach to a challenge that I think we all have to accept is going to result in some staff reductions at Washington State University,” said Regent Michael Worthy, chair of the Finance and Audit Committee, which discussed the proposal at last month’s regents meeting. Worthy added that, while the plan is a positive step, the board recognizes that it will not solve the overall budget shortfall facing WSU.  

Those taking advantage of the plan would be prohibited from returning to employment with WSU within five years of retirement. Employees who retire could be eligible for temporary employment not to exceed 40 percent time, if such temporary employment is approved in advance by the provost and executive vice president.

Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick Bayly said that provision could allow the university to retain faculty members, on a temporary, part-time basis, to teach necessary courses.

Floyd said the university now would also move forward to gain legislative approval for a bill that would allow the university also to extend the early retirement incentive to civil service employees and administrative professional employees that are members of state or federal retirement systems, such as PERS. The university estimates that about 200 such employees would qualify for the program, if it does gain legislative approval.

VERI proposal: http://regents.wsu.edu/meeting-materials/200902VERI.pdf

Perspective Column on VERI: http://president.wsu.edu/perspectives/020209.html