Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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Burlington yanks “bonus” sick leave in light of state-level policy change

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Members of Burlington’s municipal staff who find themselves under the weather will have one more reason to “get well soon” due to a recent reversal in one employee benefit.

During a city council work session on Monday, city manager Craig Honeycutt announced that he and his colleagues have decided to revoke this staff-level benefit due to a new directive from the state agency that oversees North Carolina’s local government retirement system.

Honeycutt admitted that evening the city received a notice from the system’s administrators in December that “bonus sick leave” will no longer be counted toward an individual employee’s retirement benefits. He added that this policy change has effectively undermined just such a amenity that Burlington introduced in 2022 – initially as a recruitment tool for its police force.

Honeycutt recalled that Burlington had originally modeled its benefit on a similar perk that has long been available to municipal staff members in Raleigh. He added that, after its successful application to the police department, the city decided to extend the amenity to the remainder of Burlington’s municipal staff as a token of appreciation to its long-serving employees.

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Honeycutt noted that the state’s volta face won’t penalize anyone who has already taken advantage of Burlington’s bonus sick leave. He added, however, that the benefit will no longer be offered to Burlington’s staff in order to avoid the retirement-related complications it will entail.  In the meantime, Honeycutt said that the city’s administrators have come up with a conciliatory perk to make this change easier for staff members to bear.

“So that we’re not taking something away,” he said during Monday’s work session, “one thing we would like to recommend is that we give 40 hours of bonus leave [to veteran staff members] at the anchor years of 8, 15 and 25 [years in the city’s employ].”

The city council went on to approve this new benefit on Tuesday as part of a so-called “consent agenda” of routine or non-controversial items that they adopted en bloc at the start of a regularly-scheduled meeting that evening.

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