LARGO — Less experienced city employees would get more time off under proposed changes to vacation and sick time compensation. More experienced employees, on the other hand, would see the amount of unused vacation they can convert to cash sliced in half.
City management's decision to change its paid time off policies for non-union employees comes after two recent developments:
• Largo's work force is getting younger because of layoffs and more employees taking early retirement. Younger employees value vacation time more, according to Largo's Human Resources Department.
• News of large payouts to public employees for unused vacation has generated negative public reaction toward some tax-funded organizations, both nationally and locally.
"We really wanted to look ... at the benefits we're providing and make sure they're considered fair and reasonable," Assistant City Manager Mike Staffopoulos told the City Commission at Tuesday's work session. The changes to the paid time off policies would be the first in more than a decade, Staffopoulos said.
The changes would start in fiscal 2013 (which starts Oct. 1, 2012) and apply to the city's 220 non-union employees, about one-quarter of Largo's work force.
Employees would accrue vacation time quicker under the proposed policy. A new employee would start with 10 days in the first year of service and earn about one additional day each year until capping at 20 vacation days after 10 years.
Under the current policy, employees don't get more than 10 days off until their fifth year of service. Vacation increases incrementally to 22 days for someone with 25 years of city employment.
The flip side to the proposed plan, though, is that more experienced employees would see the amount of unused time they can convert to cash halved. Depending on position, Largo employees typically can carry over 50 percent of their vacation time from year to year and can cash out up to 80 days of unused vacation at the end of employment.
The new policy would lower the cap to 40 days. There are 28 employees with more than 40 days of vacation built up, according to Human Resources Director Susan Sinz. City management hasn't decided what will happen to those employees under the new proposal. Sinz said it is possible they could be grandfathered in and still allowed to cash all their vacation time out, or they could be allowed to cash more out each year while still employed to get under the cap.
"I think we've been very generous in the past, and I think it's a good idea to limit our liability in the future," said Mayor Pat Gerard.
Sick time would also be cut. Employees can accrue up to 1,440 hours of sick time; that would drop to 720. Employees can convert sick time to vacation time on a 2-to-1 basis (two sick days = one vacation day) in certain circumstances with a maximum of 20 sick days; that maximum would be cut to 10 days.
None of the commissioners objected to any of the proposals Tuesday, so a formalized plan will come back to the commission, probably early next year, for approval. Commissioner Curtis Holmes, however, did object to some of the language in the letter explaining the new policy, particularly the section explaining that "younger employees, in general, place a high emphasis on time away from work."
Sinz said that statement is based on what human resources has seen as it has recruited younger employees.
Sinz estimated the net budgetary impact of the new plan would be about $40,000 in savings.
Holmes also criticized the letter for stating the new policy would be fair both to the city and its employees, without mention of another party.
"And the taxpayers," Holmes added. "Those are our customers. Those are the people actually paying the tab."
Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or email@example.com.