Monday, July 22, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Commissioners OK comp time to be converted to cash for sheriff, EMS staff

For sheriff’s deputies and other county emergency workers, the first Monday in March was a little like Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one.

This holiday hat trick effectively became a reality that morning when Alamance County’s commissioners pledged to pay out thousands of “banked” holiday hours that employees of the local sheriff’s office, EMS, and the county’s 9-1-1 center have accumulated over the years.

The commissioners ultimately agreed to shell out $444,806 from the county’s lapsed salaries to cover 13,402 hours that these staff members have collectively built up under a personnel policy that credits them with comp time, rather than cash, when they have to work on holidays.

Alamance County manager Heidi York

“We’re seeing very large balances of holiday leave accruing for employees without the ability to use that leave. This is just advancing that payment to them…It would give them a nice check to thank them for their service.” – County manager Heidi York

The county’s governing board voted to release this backlog of holiday cheer at the behest of Alamance County’s manager Heidi York, who insisted that the much of this accumulated time is unlikely to be used up by the staff members in question fore leave the county’s employ.

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“We’re seeing very large balances of holiday leave accruing for employees without the ability to use that leave,” York informed the commissioners during a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday. “This is just advancing that payment to them…It would give them a nice check to thank them for their service.”

York added that this one-time payout, which will be tendered in April, will leave each employee with no more than 40 hours of banked holiday time to use whenever his or her work schedule allows.

York urged the commissioners to sign off on this payout as a prelude to some other potential measures that she and her colleagues have been preparing in response to concerns about turnover at the local sheriff’s office.

Last month, Alamance County’s sheriff Terry Johnson personally appeared before the commissioners to address his agency’s troubles with recruitment and retention. Johnson went on to present a raft of compensatory proposals that the commissioners then ordered York to flesh out in advance of their first regularly-scheduled meeting in March.

During her presentation on Monday, York conceded that she’ll need more time to get most of the sheriff’s suggestions ready for action. In particular, she said that a number of Johnson’s ideas will require some budgetary projections that the county’s finance department has yet to complete.

York nevertheless told the commissioners that she’ll eventually present them with recommendations such as an incentivized pay rate of time and a half for deputies and other emergency services employees who work holidays, a premium rate for sheriff’s deputies who serve as investigators, and an optional, semiannual cash-out of accrued holiday hours similar to Monday’s wholesale liquidation of comp time.

York added that she has also asked a consultant in the county’s employ to develop a separate pay scale for public safety positions as part of the second round of an ongoing “market” study of county employee salaries. The same firm has also been instructed to rejigger the pay grades for these staff members to prevent “red-lining” – or current wages that already exceed an employee’s projected pay range after a promotion.

Although the sheriff had originally suggested these measures to deter defections within his own agency, York said that she plans to expand these recommendations to the benefit all of the county’s emergency workers.

The commissioners, for their part, voted 5-to-0 to move ahead with the initial holiday cash-out that York recommended for these employees.

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