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With older workers retiring and housing prices remaining stubbornly high, Napa may turn to hiring bonuses in hopes of wooing future employees.

On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss offering as much as $15,000 to new hires with “professional skills, knowledge and abilities” taking over difficult-to-fill positions in the Napa government. Additionally, recruits could receive up to $15,000 to cover moving expenses and temporary housing, and also could carry over two weeks of their vacation time from previous jobs, under the proposal outlined last week by Human Resources Director Jennifer Brizel.

The incentives would be offered to those taking over jobs for which Napa has had no or few qualified applicants in the past, or have been filled only after multiple rounds of recruiting. A new worker could qualify for multiple incentives, subject to the city manager’s approval.

The proposal for hiring bonuses and moving assistance has taken shape as Napa faces a tougher road holding onto existing workers amid an aging workforce and historically tight employment market, Brizel wrote in a memorandum to the council.

Brizel pointed to inflated housing costs as a particular roadblock for would-be recruits, with the real estate website Zillow.com listing Napa’s median home value at $658,100, nearly triple the national figure. Statewide, 53 percent of Californians surveyed in a February report by Edelman Intelligence said they would consider leaving the state due to housing expenses.

With California’s unemployment rate barely above 4 percent, governments face special hiring challenges, wrote Brizel. Baby boomers who may have delayed retirement during the Great Recession a decade ago are now leaving the work force, private-sector jobs with higher salaries are more plentiful, and a 2013 California pension reform lowering payouts and raising the retirement age has made government jobs less attractive for some workers, she said.

Staff turnover in Napa reached 11 percent in 2018 counting retirements, resignations and other departures, and a fifth of city workers now qualify for pensions in the state Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Napa’s workers outside of the police and fire departments are currently in a 30-month agreement with the city that included a 2.75 percent race in February, with further increases scheduled of 4 percent in March and 0.75 percent in 2021, the final year of the contract. Employees also can earn longevity bonuses for reaching 10, 15, 20 or 25 years of employment.

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You can reach Howard Yune at 707-256-2214 or hyune@napanews.com.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.