GALVESTON

In the 2016 fiscal year, the city of Galveston paid departing employees $802,449 for unused sick and vacation leave, Human Resources Director Kent Etienne said.

Several city council members have used the number to argue for changes in the city’s vacation and sick leave policies, which are being reworked by the human resources department.

“It’s expensive for the city, as evidenced by what we’ve paid,” Councilman Mike Doherty, of District 4, said. “It seems to me that it just is an excessive amount of time that can be accumulated.”

The $802,449 was paid to civil service, non-civil service and police employees, but the city couldn’t immediately provide a breakdown, Etienne said.

Separation pay and accumulation of leave has been a hot issue as the city council has worked to approve new vacation and sick leave policies.

The city hasn’t suggested changes to its separation pay policies, but has asked the city council to approve a plan that allows employees to accumulate vacation days in shorter periods of time. In looking at those suggestions, however, several council members have found fault in the old and have disagreed with the payout process.

City employees can take a maximum of 40 days of vacation leave in one year if hours have been unused and rolled over from year to year, city documents show. If an employee leaves the city, all of that money in unused vacation would be paid out, Etienne said.

Employees can take up to 12 sick days a year, but can accrue to 120 days, according to city documents. That’s paid out on a sliding scale — the longer employees have worked for the city, the more they’ll be paid in unused sick leave, Etienne said.

Paying out vacation leave doesn’t seem like a problem, Councilwoman Amy Bly, of District 1, said.

“It’s time that they’ve earned,” Bly said. “It just seems fair.”

But sick leave shouldn’t be paid out, Bly said. Doherty agreed.

“I don’t mind people having sick leave,” Doherty said. “But if they’re healthy, I don’t see a reason to let that much carry over. It accumulates quickly.”

Vacation carry-over accumulates too fast as well, and people should be encouraged to take vacation, not save it, Doherty said.

“It certainly doesn’t sync with the business world,” he said.

Councilman Craig Brown, of District 2, said the city council needs to look at how the employees might be affected while still making policies competitive with other area entities.

“I’m still not sure exactly where the city needs to head,” Brown said. “But I think the vacation and sick leave issue needs to be looked at.”

As for the separation pay, Brown said “of course the money is an issue.”

Councilman Frank Maceo, of District 3, said he just wants the policies to be competitive while being fair to employees. Separation pay should be cut down, but it’s going to occur, he said.

“It is what it is,” Maceo said. “If that was our liability, we need to think about ways to trim it. That’s a liability.”

Samantha Ketterer: 409-683-5241; samantha.ketterer@galvnews.com or on Twitter at @sam_kett

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(6) comments

Ray Taft

Here’s a thought. Stop being so generous with taxpayers money when it comes to paying yourselves. Use or lose your PTO, like in the private sector. If they get so much PTO that they cannot use it al every year, reduce it.

Steve Fouga

My thoughts: Leave policy should be identical across Galveston governmental entities -- City, Park Board, Wharves, etc...

Sick leave should never be paid out. An employee should be given 10-15 days per year, and allowed to roll it over to as much as double the annual allowance. It shouldn't depend on seniority.

Vacation should be allowed to accrue to double the annual allowance, and always paid out if not used. The annual allowance should depend on seniority, and the most an employee can earn should be 20-25 days annually.

This would be roughly in line with industry practice.

Don Schlessinger

The company I retired from 2 years ago let us earn 6 months sick leave if we needed it. When an employee left the company they leave their sick leave behind. I worked in the offshore industry, rotational employees had different rules regarding vacation time and pay, but 5 and 2 employees. Those employees were paid earned annual vacation at end of that year. Maybe that wouldn't work in city government because of unions, but it seemed to work well in my company.

PD Hyatt

The company I retired from 6 years ago, you either used your vacation every year or you lost it. As for sick days you were allotted so many per year and you did not carry any of them over nor did you get to cash them in at the end.... Seems like the government is always very generous with our money!

Mark Aaron

Paul: [ Seems like the government is always very generous with our money!]

Seems like your company was chintzy with its benefits. You need a union.

Keith Gray

Mark I do not know any unions that get their sick leave paid out... unless it is out of somewhere like Detroit... and that union is doing soooo well.

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