Contact: Gary Fitzpatrick (202) 707-8542, Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
October 14, 1993
149 Library of Congress Employees Take Advantage of Retirement Incentive
A total of 149 staffers of the Library of Congress chose to take advantage of early or optional retirement today, the first day the 2 1/2-month program began.
Unlike many federal agencies that are cutting back, the Library opted to give everyone eligible a chance to apply for the incentive. "Rather than have management determine who should be able to take advantage of the retirement incentive, the Library decided to let all its 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 forming this morning outside the Madison Building before the doors opened at 6 a.m., Library managers said the procedure was the only way to ensure that all eligible employees would have the same opportunity to retire. 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 was offered to the first 250 eligible staff who chose optional or early retirement beginning today. 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 distributed within the Library explaining the plan.
Of those eligible to apply for retirement, 467 have 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 5 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 held three forums for staff to address their questions. It also established a Retirement Hotline and a Retirement Center to provide counseling services.
The Library faces severe budget reductions during the next two fiscal years. 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 salary reduction but also increases due to inflation. If locality pay increases are implemented for 1994, the effective cut will be $20.1 million. A similar budget is expected in FY 1995.
To cope with reduced budgets over the next two years without furloughing workers, the Library needs to reduce 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.
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