By GUY LAMOLINARA
As of Nov. 1, a total of 188 staffers of the Library had chosen to take advantage of early or optional retirement incentives. On Oct. 14, the first day of the 10-week program, 148 persons retired.
Unlike many federal agencies that are cutting back under fiscal pressure, the Library chose a voluntary approach. "Rather than have management determine who should be able to take advantage of the retirement incentive, the Library decided to let all its 1,436 eligible employees decide whether to take early or optional retirement, in the interest of fairness," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
Although the decision resulted in a line of employees outside the Madison Building before the doors opened on Oct. 14 at 6 a.m., Library managers said the procedure was the only way to ensure fairness. When the doors opened, processing proceeded in an orderly manner. Retirement applications, accepted beginning at 6:30 a.m., were dated and time-stamped; employees then completed the separation process.
The Library's plan was approved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on Sept. 24.
An incentive of up to $25,000 is being offered to the first 250 eligible staff who chose optional or early retirement. The offer ends Dec. 31, 1993.
When Congress passed the legislative branch fiscal 1994 budget, which includes funding for the Library of Congress, it ordered that the Library cut its staff by a total of 4 percent by Sept. 30, 1995; a 2.5 percent cut in staff must be made by Sept. 30, 1994.
In order to comply with the law and to cut costs to make up for a projected shortfall in funding, the Library decided to reduce its work force through voluntary retirements. Individual staffers chose whether to retire.
Letters were mailed to the 1,436 staffers who are eligible for the incentive payment. Special announcements were also issued to all 5,000 Library employees. The Library held three forums for staff to address their questions. It also established a Retirement Hotline and a Retirement Center to provide counseling services.
Of those eligible to apply for retirement, 467 had enough years of age and service to be eligible for optional retirement; 969 could choose early retirement.
Eligibility for optional retirement is based on a minimum age of 55 with 30 years of federal service, a minimum age of 60 with 20 years of service, or a minimum age of 62 with five years of service.
Early retirement is based on at least 50 years of age and a minimum of 20 years of service or any age with at least 25 years of service. For each year younger than 55, federal employees take a 2 percent reduction in their annuities.
The Library faces severe budget reductions during the next two fiscal years. Managers have little flexibility under congressional mandates and union rules to deal with the problem. In the fiscal 1994 budget, Congress imposed a general salary reduction of $6.8 million, which is equivalent to funding for 128 positions. In real terms, the FY 1994 budget represents a reduction of $14.3 million, because the Library must absorb not only the general salary reduction but also mandatory seniority pay increases and increases due to inflation. If federal locality pay increases are implemented in 1994, the effective cut could be $20.1 million. A similar budget is expected in FY 1995.
To cope with reduced budgets over the next two years without ordering reductions-in-force (RIFs) or furloughing employees, the Library must its work force by nearly 400 positions; the current staff is about 5,000.
For each one of the retirement incentives paid, the Library will eliminate one position, though not necessarily the position vacated. Incentives will be paid in a lump sum, minus federal withholding, state and local taxes and FICA/Medicare payments, and are the lesser of $25,000 or the amount of severance pay the employee would be entitled to receive.