Atwater: Some sick leave payout policies "overly generous"
Some school district and other local government policies that allow employees to be paid for unlimited amounts of unused sick leave are “overly generous” and need to be revisited, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said today.
“Now we’re realizing in tight financial times that they’re having to make a choice between honoring certain benefits that may have been by historical standards very generous and trying to make ends meet with necessities,” he told The Gradebook after an appearance at Northeast High in St. Petersburg, where he was pitching a financial literacy program.
Six-figure payouts to several Florida superintendents this year, including former Pinellas superintendent Julie Janssen, have drawn scrutiny to policies that allow employees to rack up unlimited amounts of sick leave and get paid for it when they leave. Pinellas spent $10.1 million in unused sick leave last year. Hillsborough spent $13 million.
Atwater said the policies should be looked at for all employees, not just high-ranking administrators who tend to earn the biggest payouts. "All of us benefit from a healthy and sound and a positive career path that does not go through the gyrations of benefits in good times and the extraction of benefits in tough times," he said. "So let's find the real equilibrium that is appropriate, responsible and sound for everybody across all times. And everybody should participate."
But Atwater also stopped short of calling for legislative action, saying local school boards should step up before the state has to.
“If communities are not willing to address it and there’s real detriment to the institutional quality ... then maybe the Legislature needs to step in,” he said. “But frankly, the locals should address it. They should set the example.”