FL County to Pay Out $4M in Unused Leave Time

September 12, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Workers for a southwest Florida county are up in arms over a plan to spend $4 million to pay out senior employees' accumulated vacation and sick leave.

The Sarasota Herald Tribunesaid Sarasota County officials have proposed paying 126 employees at least $10,000 for accumulated leave and then eliminating the ability to store up unused leave. The county estimates it would save about $900,000 a year by getting rid of the perk.

A group of 25 upper-level employees would receive $1 million – an average of $40,000 each. The biggest payout, $78,360, would go to Henry Schwan, general manager for the county’s information technology operations, the newspaper said.

Only employees hired before 1999 get the benefit, and they tend to be higher paid, the newspaper said. So, about half of the county’s workers can bank unused time off, while the other, younger half cannot. A key feature of a sick bank is that when the time is cashed out it is compensated at the employee’s current wage and not the wage he or she was earning when those hours were put into the bank.

According to the Herald Tribune, the county is also making changes to its health care plans. The health maintenance organization plan will be dropped because premiums are going up 25% and the overall health care deductible is being increased from $500 to $750.

The news account said some workers believe the payments are inappropriate because the county is in a period of layoffs and only small pay raises.The county is about to pass its first deficit budget in memory, has laid off 230 employees in the last 16 months, and asked its managers and many of its employees to forgo raises this year.

Merv Kennell, business agent for Suncoast Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Local 2546, told the Herald Tribune that this is the wrong time for the county to be making large cash payments to its top employees. “This is the year that nobody gets pay increases except for half the group that are already higher paid,” Kennell said.