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USM offers retirement incentives

HATTIESBURG — The University of Southern Mississippi is offering an incentive package to employees in hopes of encouraging early retirement, a plan similar to one enacted this year by Mississippi State University.

USM hopes the move will lessen the impact of budget cuts. Beginning next month, USM employees who are eligible for retirement can sign up for an incentive if they agree to leave on June 30.

The bonus: 50 percent of their current base salaries in a lump payment or spread over as many as five years.

The plan mirrors a program that MSU offered retirement-eligible employees this year.

USM President Martha Saunders told The Clarion-Ledger than university leaders consulted Mississippi State before deciding to go forward with it.

“It’s one of the few ways to make cuts that actually makes people happy,” Saunders said. “It makes sense and should give us a fairly substantial savings.”

The plan mirrors Mississippi State’s incentive package. MSU typically has about 80 to 90 retirees a year, but 278 people retired in June, taking advantage of the incentive program and cutting $9 million in salaries, MSU President Mark Keenum said. Participants included 47 faculty members.

“It turned out really well for us,” Keenum said.

About 900 employees were eligible.

Mississippi State is evaluating all positions that were opened through the program. Some will be refilled, and some will be filled temporarily or on a part-time basis.

“Our goal has been to capture at least half of it as savings,” Keenum said. “That will be $4 million that we save every year.”

Data from USM show the university has many employees in their late 60s and early 70s. The universities’ oldest employees are nearly 80.

More than 350 employees will be eligible for the program, but it’s unclear how many will take the university up on the offer.

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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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