County makes changes in personnel policy

Recent changes to the county’s personnel policy should curtail excessive employee accumulations of comp time and vacation hours, thus bringing the organization in line with practices found across the country and reducing the likelihood of budget-busting payouts in the future.

According to the policy — adopted by the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners April 7 — allowable comp time accrual was reduced from 240 hours to 120 hours and vacation accrual was capped at 240 hours.

According to Mitzi Bowman, human resources generalist, the former policy mentioned an annual cap of 80 rolled-over vacation hours, but did not impose a maximum vacation hour accrual cap. The new policy, with it’s 240-hour limit, Bowman said, should limit big payouts when long-term employees who have not used their vacation hours leave the organization.

However, although the revised policy should correct excessive comp time accruals and limit hefty future payouts, Archuleta County Finance Director Don Warn said the county remains bound to honor existing comp time and vacation accruals — even if they exceed the new policy limits.

According to Warn, and as of Dec. 31, 2008, the county faced $394,218 in combined, vacation and comp time liability. As of March 18, that number had been whittled down to $330,916.

Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte said one of the administration’s challenges will be to bring comp time and vacation hour accruals to within the limits detailed in the revised personnel policy.

“We’ve got to bring existing balances down to the revised policy limits. We are going to incur some costs to bring them down, but there is really no way around that,” Schulte said.

Schulte added that the county’s new integrated software program includes a variety of features that allow for overage prevention with peremptory detection, and detailed balance tracking.

“We can print reports in a much more effective way than before, such that department heads can manage leave balances better,” Schulte said.

To that end, Warn’s reports indicate countywide vacation accruals beyond the policy limits at $41,967 while comp time accruals exceed the policy limits, totalling $55,142.

According to the documentation, the sheriff, planning, and information systems departments carry the largest comp time accruals in excess of the policy limits.

In a past interview regarding the comp time issue, Archuleta County Sheriff Pete Gonzalez said, “I became aware of the comp time issue when I took office. It was something I inherited. The past administration allowed many in the department to accumulate an incredible amount of comp time, in excess of what was allowed. Many employees saw it as a golden parachute. The first thing I did when I took office was to not allow one more hour of comp time to be earned. What’s killing us is the excess comp time, not the time comp allowed under the policy.”

james@pagosasun.com