County needs to do away with compensated absences
Hernando TodayThe issue: County owes $7.74 million to employees for compensated absences. Our opinion: Commissioners need to scrap this flawed policy. It's a taxpayer rip-off.
Published: October 8, 2010
Published: October 8, 2010
When county employees don't use all their vacation, sick or other paid time off each year, they can bank the days until they retire or leave their jobs.
Sounds reasonable on the surface.
However, the flawed policy has created a huge debt to the county's coffers and stuck the taxpayers with the bill.
A recent audit of how employees keep track of work hours showed that system has severe reporting flaws and lax oversight. That leads us to suspect that work hours and paid time off aren't being tallied accurately.
What does all this mean? Well, as of Sept. 1, 2010, the county owed more than $7.74 million in compensated absences cash to its employees.
That's right, $7.74 million.
As an example, former county engineer Charles Mixson was fired earlier this year after working 23 years for the county. Before he was kicked out the door, the county handed Mixson a bag of money totaling $30,064.
Even employees who leave the county under a cloud are allowed to cash in their compensated absences balance.
That's got to end.
What's worse is the employee cashes out at the pay level they are making when they leave. In other words, if an employee starts out making $7 and hour and retires making $35 an hour, all the banked hours are paid out at the $35-an-hour rate.
The simple solution for commissioners is to scrap this employee cash cow and implement the same paid time off policy that private sector employers use: It's called use it or lose it.
Commissioner Jim Adkins said it best: "That policy has to be changed. We can't afford it. The taxpayers can't afford it, and we can't continue it. We've got to look at ways of doing other things besides these buyouts and payouts that are going to break the bank."
Everyone needs time off to relax and get away from work. We all get sick from time to time, and we shouldn't spread our illness around the workplace. Everyone should observe the major holidays with family and friends. But if there's an incentive to bank hours at much higher pay in the future, many employees will take advantage of that. Some will abuse the benefit.
Commissioners need to take the complexity and potential for fraud out of paid time off for employees. Schedule all time off to be taken each year or lose it on Dec. 31.
Quit soaking the taxpayers with these mumbo-jumbo, back-door policies that are designed to line the pockets of county workers.