UW-Oshkosh one of three campuses offering voluntary retirement buyouts as UW System faces budget cuts

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OSHKOSH (WITI/AP) — The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is the third campus to offer voluntary retirement buyouts for faculty and staff as the UW System faces possible budget cuts.

The university said Tuesday, March 31st it’s offering eligible employees a one-time payment equal to 50 percent of an employee’s annual base salary. UW-Eau Claire, UW-Superior and UW-Green Bay have made similar offers.

In an email to employees, Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt offered the incentive to anyone with 25 years of service to the state and is at least 60 years old. The university expects about 100 employees will be eligible. Plans are to reduce its workforce by 80 over the next three years.

“If you agree to retire by July 1st, you will receive a 50 percent cash payment of your base salary,” UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said.

Governor Scott Walker has proposed a $300 million cut in funding to the university system. The Legislature’s budget committee will spend the next few months revising Walker’s biennial proposal.

“We’re going to go on a diet. And of course, to be on a diet, you need time. So over the next three years, we hope to reduce the workforce by about 5 percent to address the structural budget deficit of $7.5 million,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt says that’s out of a university operating budget of $107 million.

Kay Neal is one of about 100 of the 1,450 full-time employees eligible for the voluntary retirement buyouts.

“I don’t know for sure. I’m going to have to give it some thought,” Neal said.

Neal is a communication studies professor at UW-Oshkosh.

“You want to assess everything in terms of your benefits, and terms of social security — in terms of health insurance. And a two-week window makes it difficult,” Neal said.

Administrators say staff will need to act quickly.

“We believe that’s prudent. The cuts aren’t going to be zero, certainly. And so putting off the problem certainly doesn’t help us,” UW-Oshkosh Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Tom Sonnleitner said.

Administrators say the retirement option could prevent layoffs for the next three years. Upcoming campus forums might offer answers to staff, like Kay Neal.

“A lot of people are going to be in my same circumstance, where they’re just not sure what to do, what’s best for them,” Neal said.

UW-Green Bay is making a similar offer. Employees must be at least 55 years old with at least five years of service. Leaders hope to save $4.6 million over the next two years.