HARTFORD -- Under-staffed state officials overseeing benefits for early retirement programs are so far behind that more than 10,000 former state employees, dating back more than 20 years, are awaiting finalized payment schedules.

According to a new report by the state Auditors of Public Accounts, some of the former state workers are participants in a retirement program offered by the last Democratic governor, William A. O'Neill, who left office in January, 1991.

Robert G. Jaekle, of Stratford, one of the two state auditors, said this week that while retirees are not missing monthly payments, the huge pile of casework in the comptroller's office is causing lingering delays in figuring out exactly what they are due.

The chief culprit of the delays was the popularity of retirement packages offered by O'Neill; his successor Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.; two proposals during the Rowland administration; and one from Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

By May, there were 10,600 applications on file pending finalization, according to the audit issued last week.

The problem, which in the long run is not expected to result in major adjustments to current retirement payments, underscores the better-known under-funded pension plans that rank among the top five most-fragile programs in the nation.

State lawmakers in recent years have dodged fully funding the retirement plans, which are now under-funded by about $34 billion.