County comp time changes ahead

Published 1:22 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Commissioners expect to pay some, apply future limits

Covington County commissioners expect to amend their policies to cap the amount of comp time county employees can carry over.

In an effort to minimize its overtime costs, county employees earn comp time at 1.5 times the time worked. At present, law enforcement officers may accrue up to 480 hours, and government employees may accrue up to 240 hours.

There also is not provision for “paying out” accrued comp time, until an employee leaves the county. County administrator Karen Sowell and county attorney Stephanie Cotton both said changes need to be made in the policy in order to comply with federal and state guidelines.

Commission Chairman Greg White said some employees like to accrue the comp time in order to spend it with their families during the holidays, or to take advantage of hunting season.

White recommended that commissioners set a specific limit – perhaps 80 or 90 hours – that can be carried over each year. Employees will have until March 31 in the year following the calendar year in which comp time is earned to use it.

White said the county also must begin enforcing a policy already in place that requires comp time to be turned in with regular payroll, or it won’t be counted. White also recommended that once commissioners agree on a limit, the county “pay out” the additional amounts owed this year. Doing so would cost the county $20,000 to $25,000, he said.

Commissioner Tony Holmes asked if most of the hours belonged to Drug Task Force agents. Sheriff Dennis Meeks said that is currently the case, but most of the accrued time occurred before the agents were eligible for federal reimbursement of overtime worked.

“I don’t know if it really affects DTF as much as it does in criminal investigations,’ Meeks said. “Because criminal investigations is way overloaded for the number of people I’ve got.”

Meeks also asked if the county would hold paying out comp time as an option each year.

“If you do, you are setting up a bonus system,” White said. “Once we clear the books, it will be up to the employees and their department to manage their time.”

Commissioners also plan to change their on-call policy. Rather than paying employees a flat amount per day for taking “on-call” duty, they will pay overtime to employees who are called out in an emergency after hours. Employees who answer such calls will receive a minimum of two hours of overtime pay.

Commissioners expect to adopt the changes at their Feb. 14 meeting.

They will hold a public hearing on a proposed gasoline tax next Mon., Feb. 6, at 6 p.m.