Wednesday, September 03, 2014
   
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County adopts paid time off policy

Employees question commissioners about benefits change

LEXINGTON—Some long-time Dawson County employees who have hoarded sick time stand to lose hours that may have translated into dollars when the leave benefits change on July 1.

County commissioners reminded employees, though, that sick leave and vacation time earned should not serve as a savings account to be used upon retirement.

County board members unanimously adopted a new policy during the commissioners’ regular bimonthly meeting on March 14 which changes separate paid hours for sick leave and vacation into a single lumped paid time off (PTO).

Any vacation time already accrued will be carried over and must be used before PTO can be taken.

As for sick leave, employees will be allowed to put up to 600 of their accumulated hours into a catastrophic illness bank.

Anyone with more than 600 sick leave hours will be paid on a prorated schedule for the balance of hours.

For instance, an employee with the maximum 960 sick leave hours would roll 600 hours into the catastrophic illness bank and be paid $3,000 for the remaining 360 hours.

No payment will be made to employees for unused hours in the catastrophic illness bank upon retirement.

“So when I retire, I lose everything I’ve worked to accumulate,” said roads department employee Joe Dodd. “That seems like a final thank-you in the back.”

Commissioners expressed that the new policy is designed to not only benefit employees with more unrestricted paid time off but also relieve some of the liability the county faces with an aging work force.

If every county employee were to retire before July 1, paying for the unused benefits would cost taxpayers more than $500,000.

With 60 or so people working under him, sheriff Gary Reiber realizes the concern employees have.

“I understand that it’s going to take a new hire a long time to build up those hours,” Reiber said. “It’s going to affect people differently depending on how long they’ve been here. I want to be fair to my employees but I also know that I have to consider the taxpayers in all of this.”

Commissioners have yet to iron out the details of the catastrophic illness bank but said uses will be defined as much as possible before the July 1 implementation.

“We want this to be as black and white as it can get,” said Cozad commissioner P.J. Jacobson. “We don’t want any gray area in between because we want to treat everybody the same.”

Department heads will be responsible for approving the catastrophic illness for each employee with commissioners serving as an appeals board.

All details of the new policy will be finalized prior to July 1.

In other county board action, commissioners:

heard the monthly crime report from Reiber. There were 1,316 dispatch calls in February with 835 total services, 139 new bookings and an average daily jail population of 101 inmates.

approved, following a public hearing, application for federal funds to purchase a new bus for the Dawson County Transit. The new bus would cost approximately $55,000 with $44,000 coming from a federal grant and $11,000 covered by the county.

Commissioners also approved the annual application for operating funds for the transit system, which would provide $63,203 from federal funds and $31,602 in state funding with a county match of $31,602.

adopted a resolution presented by Reiber which states the county will not be responsible for any medical services for criminals prior to being lodged in the Dawson County jail. This covers any possible injuries during an arrest or investigation prior to jail booking.

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