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Lamont says 'tsunami' of retirements not as bad as predicted

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Office of Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont
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The impact of the predicted tsunami of Connecticut state employees retiring from government service appears smaller than first feared, given an uptick in hiring and current state workers withdrawing their retirement paperwork in advance of Friday's deadline, according to Governor Ned Lamont and his administration.

“It's more like a summer storm than a tsunami,” the Democrat said Wednesday, noting how the state is on track to end the fiscal year with the same number of employees that it had a year ago.

More than 6,000 people were hired during the current fiscal year, which ends Friday. That's about 1,000 more than usual, according to the state's chief human resources official. Lamont and others credited a new state labor agreement that includes higher wages and bonuses, new hybrid and telework opportunities, and the state's improved talent recruitment efforts, as well as workers' personal economic circumstances with encouraging people to apply for state jobs or keep the ones they already have.

“We're seeing individuals pull back their paperwork and say, 'I've decided to stay.' And we're really encouraged by that,” said Michelle Gilman, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.

State employee unions, however, contend that there is still a “public service crisis” and that critical state services are at risk. They argue there were serious staffing shortages that predate the current surge in retirements.

“We are down 500 front-line staff throughout our state prisons, and that does not even include the June retirements or the 100 additional posts we were promised would be filled,” said Collin Provost, a correctional officer and president of AFSCME Local 391, in a written statement. “This alarmingly low level of staffing puts correctional officers at risk every day.”

As of Tuesday, 4,232 people had filed retirement applications with the Office of State Comptroller since January. There are roughly 48,200 full-time employees throughout state government.

Data from the comptroller's office indicate more than 200 state workers who submitted nonbinding “intents-to-retire” letters to their agencies ended up pulling those applications. As of Tuesday, 1,361 letters of intent had been filed but ultimately 1,142 final retirement applications had been received by the office. Letters of intent are not required so the data is expected to change between now and Friday.

While some workers have rescinded their retirement applications at the University of Connecticut, hundreds are still expected to leave state service. At Storrs and the regional campuses, the university originally anticipated about 430 retirements but reduced the predicted number to about 385. As of Wednesday, a UConn spokesperson said 394 retirement applications had been filed, with only about 16 people rescinding their paperwork.

At UConn Health, 347 employee retirements have been processed. Fewer than five applications had been rescinded, the spokesperson said.

The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities reports it expects to see 727 full-time retirements. That's compared with 235 last fiscal year and 183 in fiscal year 2020.

The state's Judicial Branch expects about 95 employees to retire as of July 1. A spokesperson said some people this month rescinded their intent to retire, but “it's not at a volume that is out of the ordinary.” Meanwhile, Jim Tamburro, executive director of the Office of Legislative Management, said roughly 14 legislative staff will be retiring and “that is the number we anticipated.”

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