Commissioners to rescind vote on sellback policy

WARREN — Trumbull County commissioners plan to rescind a program two of them voted for Wednesday approving a plan to that allows non-union employees to sell back their sick and vacation time to the county, which cost $800,000 last year.

Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa voted against the plan, while Commissioners Frank Fuda and Dan Polivka voted to pass it, saying they intended to “tweak” it for the 675 employees by September for 2020.

“This is an issue that needs to be addressed as the cost continues to escalate every year. Eventually the county will not be able to sustain it, and we need to take proactive measures to make sure we don’t put ourselves in that situation,” Cantalamessa said. “The plan has flaws, and I think the eligibility requirements need adjusted and the amount of time that can be converted to cash needs to be capped.”

Although many employers force employees to “use it or lose it” or require them to bank days that haven’t been used, the county has no cap on the amount of vacation and sick time that employees can sell back. And county employees are allowed to use compensatory time instead of accrued time to take time off.

A 2017 study of the county’s finances conducted by a volunteer committee recommended the county adjust its sick and vacation leave policy to save money. It was one of numerous suggestions the committee recommended before the county considers raising the sales tax.

The issue has to be addressed in union negotiations for bargaining unit employees.

Richard Jackson, director of human resources, conducted a survey among department heads — many elected officials like the prosecutor, clerk of courts and auditor — to determine how they would feel about adjustments to the program.

Some were against the changes, while others were OK with it, Jackson said.

Initially, Fuda and Polivka didn’t want to change the plan after the year already had begun.

Commissioners could cap the amount of sick and vacation hours the non-bargaining employees could carry over or convert into cash. They could prevent new employees from being eligible for the program, but that wouldn’t have an effect on the budget for several years because it is only people with more than 10 or 15 years with the county who have enough time to sell back in exchange for large checks. The commissioners could also start with restrictions, increasing the cap on sell backs over time. Or they could eliminate the program completely to realize the most savings.

Polivka and Cantalamessa declined to detail the adjustments they are considering.

“We will sit down as a body with Richard Jackson and discuss options,” Polivka said.

Commissioners began discussing the plan, which has to be renewed annually with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, when they chose to table the issue in January.

Even though the plan is due March 31, the commissioners never agreed on the “tweaks.”

“It is all on the table. No specifics have been discussed yet, though,” Cantalamessa said.

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