published: Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Commission approves buy back program
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - Highlands County employees now have an opportunity for early payout of their earned annual leave. Highlands County commissioners Tuesday morning approved an action that provides for a one-time opportunity for workers to sell back some of their accrued vacation pay and sick time.
Although the measure approved Tuesday by commissioners is a one-time affair, County Administrator June Fisher told commissioners it would pave the way for the county to transition to a Paid Time Off program, and allow the employees to do this annually, if they choose.
"We are going to bring back language to the board that would address turning this into a PTO and the ability to sell back," she said.
Such a new program could allow workers a certain number of days off each year for whatever purpose they choose. Fisher told commissioners about plans to change the sell-back to an annual opportunity for workers to exchange a number of work days for pay.
The idea to move to a Paid Time Off, or PTO, system came from a mid-December discussion on a proposed lump-sum bonus for county employees. Commissioner Don Elwell suggested the policy change in place of the bonus, which would give each worker a so-called "PTO allotment", which might be used at their discretion for vacations, sick days, important appointments or other personal reasons.
Following a requested to research such a policy, county staff reportedly solicited examples from other governmental agencies in developing such a plan for Highlands County.
As part of that plan, employees will not accrue sick time as they do currently. It also will permit employees to "sell back" up to a week's worth of paid time to the county for cash. That money already has been budgeted. Funding for the current round of early payout for earned annual leave will come from the compensated absences funding allocation. As of Tuesday's meeting, there was a balance of $1,646,452 in the fund.
When fully implemented, the sell-back program would be designed to come near the end of the calendar year, when workers would have to decide whether they wanted the time off, or were more interested in taking a payout instead.
Resident Dick Noel told commissioners to be cautious in implementing such a program, pointing to housing foreclosures as a harbinger of declining tax revenue with which to work .
"Be sure the private sector and the taxpayers are watched out for as well," he said.
Elwell agreed, responding that this was already money earned by the employees, has been 100 percent funded, and there would be no additional negative impact to the budget.
Fisher had no specific date on when the PTO program might be brought back before the commission.
Buy Back a/k/a Bonus (by: tom walsh - 1/11/2013)
yjey have earned the week's pay they want to sell back. If they used it for a vacation, that would be fine. However, by working that additional week, they will be getting paid for 53 weeks per year. When are politicians and bureaucrats going to learn elementary math?
Only one, Sheldon (by: Harry - 1/10/2013)
Only one constitutional officer has switched to PTO. A typical county employee can not sell their vacation time or sick time back at all right now, until they leave employment.
Spinning wheels....... (by: Sheldon - 1/9/2013)
PTO already exists in place as sick leave and annual leave. Why is there an interest in changing what already is in place and works? Some employees work under Comp Time requirements as well. This is a useless endeavour and a waste of time unless accrural rates will be severely limited, which will not benefit the employee. The county can allow an employee to sell back time as the system exists right now. If someone says it isn't set up, they are incorrect. One constitutional office has been doing this the past 2 years already.
Good Idea (by: Blindman - 1/9/2013)
This is a better idea than a "bonus program" designed to reward employees for doing what they are supposed to do in the first place.
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