I wanted to follow up on the May 30 email message from Human Resources Commissioner Deborah Story and express my thanks for your continued patience in waiting for details about the Voluntary Buyout Program (VBP). While preparations are being made to mail letters to the employees who will be eligible to participate in the plan, I wanted to share some additional information with you.
As you know, the State’s goal in establishing the program is to reduce $64 million in recurring expenses from the annual budget. As the Governor requested, departments and agencies are reorganizing to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness. Our department has done an outstanding job of responding to this call to look closely at our practices.
The week of June 16, about 12,000 state employees in the Executive Branch will receive program materials informing them they are eligible to participate in the VBP. Those employees who receive this letter will have until August 5, 2008 to consider the offer and submit an application to participate in the program. The VBP will be offered to Executive Branch employees in job classifications in each agency within certain business units and/or office locations that have been determined to be eligible by each department or agency. The VBP will not be offered to all state employees, and will only be available only to those identified as eligible for the buyout.
Approximately 2,000 employees will be accepted into the program. If more employees in a classification in a designated unit apply than are needed to achieve our target for that classification in that unit, acceptance will be based on seniority. Most voluntary separations will occur on August 15, 2008.
To be eligible, an employee must also be either:
- Actively employed in a full-time Career Service position; not be in an interim, seasonal or emergency appointment; and be past the probationary period that follows initial hire by the state; or
- Actively employed in a full-time Executive Service position and have six or more years of service as of June 10, 2008.
The Voluntary Buyout Package includes the following benefits:
- Four months of base salary at the greater of the rate of pay in effect on June 2, 2008, or the employee’s voluntary separation date, plus $500 for every year of state service through the employee’s voluntary separation date (partial years will be rounded up).
- Advanced payment of the next scheduled longevity payment, calculated according to normal State practice (accrued through June 30, 2009).
- Subsidized medical care coverage for the first 6 months of COBRA health coverage, if the employee is eligible to and elects to participate in COBRA. After that, participants will be responsible for the full COBRA premium for 12 additional months. Participants 65 years of age and older as of their voluntary separation date will receive a one-time $2,400 cash payment to assist in the transition to Medicare.
- Tuition assistance of up to $10,800 ($5,400 per year) at the schools, institutions and entities governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, as well as state certified apprenticeship programs. GED classes will also be available through the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Career Centers, and testing fees will be covered under the tuition assistance benefit.
- Normal payment for accrued, unused annual leave and compensatory time, as of the employee’s voluntary separation date.
People who are accepted into the VBP – and are therefore participants in the program – generally cannot, for a period of two years from their separation date, work in any capacity, including as an employee, independent contractor, or consultant, for any executive branch entity that participated in the VBP.
We believe the attractive package the state is offering will appeal to enough employees to achieve the budget reductions required. While I know everyone is eager to learn more, I want to express once again my appreciation for your patience and my gratitude for your service to the State of Tennessee.
More details of the Voluntary Buyout Plan are here:
Dr. Viola P. Miller
Tennessee Department of Children's Services