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‘Comp’ time woes

‘Comp’ time woes ‘Comp’ time woes

County board seeks to crack down on comp time for salaried staff


Taylor County department heads will have to get the OK from the human resources department when they intend to accrue compensatory “comp” time under changes approved to the county’s personnel policy at the July 15 county board session.

The change does not impact the ability of the department heads to flex their hours during the current pay period and department heads will continue to approve comp time for their non-exempt (hourly) staff up to the maximum of 20 hours.

Taylor County, like many governments uses comp time to allow employees who would otherwise be paid overtime to instead bank that time for additional paid time off at a later date. After it was discovered that some departments were accruing large amounts of hours, the county has in recent months taken steps to crack down and enforce the 20-hour cap. The issue brought to the county board last week, dealt with who should approve if a department head should accrue comp time for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Department heads are salaried and are rated as exempt employees and therefore are not automatically entitled to overtime pay under federal labor rules.

Rather than having the department heads approve their own compensatory time, supervisor Scott Mildbrand said at the July 7 finance and personnel committee meeting that he felt someone needed to OK the comp time hours. Initially he has thought it should be the chairs of the oversight committees. However with a number of different committee chairs, this could lead to inconsistent policy enforcement. The solution, he said is for it to go to the county’s human resources director Nicole Hager, for approval.

Hager presented the policy to the county board on Friday with the language that the human resources director would approve the hours. In practice this would involve the department heads sending an email or message to Hager saying how much and why the comp time was being accrued. Hager would then track it with the employee’s personnel file to account for them.

Supervisor Lynn Rosemeyer opposed the handbook change because it creates layers of approval. “I think our department managers are capable of making these decisions on their own,” she said, calling the measure authoritarian leadership.

“We need to trust our managers to do our policy,” she said, suggesting that the county should look at having an administrator.

Mildbrand defended the proposal saying the current policy is vague and needed to be clarified. “I think it was a compromise,” Mildbrand said. He said going to one person would make it consistent across the county.

Rosemeyer questioned why it should go to human resources versus being at the department level.

“We had department heads up to 100 hours of comp time. There wasn’t a lot of management. That is just my position on it,” Mildbrand said.

Supervisor Chuck Zenner spoke in support of the change. He said that while it would be nice to let the department heads do this, they also needed to get it back under control. “At this time, our human resource director is a good position to go to,” he said.

Supervisor Lester Lewis also expressed support for the handbook change. He said while he did not have formal meetings with all department heads, he said the ones he had talked to were fine with it.

“I talked with several that were not fine,” Rosemeyer said, adding that she feels some department heads are afraid of Lewis.

Supervisor Mike Bub took a different approach noting that exempt employees are paid more because they are not eligible for overtime and are expected to work extra. “I was an exempt employee, I never got comp time, overtime, etc.,” Bub said, noting that department heads are paid more in part because they are expected to work more.

“This is why you have different categories of employees,” Bub said, noting that in the private sector routinely paying exempt employees extra would not happen.

Bub also questioned other parts of the handbook referring to pay for travel time. He said this portion was vague and open to be abused. He gave the example of if a flight is delayed and if an employee could potentially be accruing overtime. He said he would like to see the handbook say they would pay standard wages for the day of travel.

In addition to Bub supervisor Sue Swiantek and Rollie Thums also expressed concern about the vagueness of the travel hours provision. “I am really concerned about section C,” Bub said.

Supervisor Greg Knight supported keeping comp time as an option for exempt employees as a recruitment and retention tool. “It boils down to can you attract, retain, and keep a qualified workforce,” he said.

Supervisor Lori Floyd said if some managers weren’t handling comp time properly that discussion should be had with that manager. She said that she feels exempt employees should not be given comp time or overtime. She said department heads who violate the policy should be addressed. “Why haven’t we disciplined them for not doing their jobs?” she asked.

“Who is the collective we?” Hager asked questioning supervisors and noting that she is not sure that she has the authority to enforce things like Floyd suggested.

Floyd said this should be the personnel committee or a subcommittee selected to do this.

Rosemeyer said that while she never got paid extra as an exempt employee she felt the county should keep doing what they have been practicing, but do a better job of monitoring it.

Supervisor Lisa Carbaugh suggested the issue go back to the finance and personnel committee. She said she did not feel they had enough information to make a decision. “We don’t know the whole story,” she said.

Mildbrand said the hours of banked comp time are coming down and that this policy change is intended to attempt to get compliance.

“This a problem that we solved earlier with employees,” Mildbrand said. “I don’t care if this is a band aid to stop it.” Mildbrand said he felt a decision needed to be made on the compensatory time at the meeting because if it was tabled, it would be another six months before the county board addressed it again.

Supervisors approved the change with the handbook to go back to the finance and personnel committee to address concerns with other areas including travel coverage.

Election funding

Supervisors went on record opposing allowing outside organizations from using private money to help fund elections.

The approval came after some supervisors expressed concern that it was politically motivated. In bringing the resolution forward for county board approval, Bub said there were concerns about the millions of dollars in outside funding that went into the 2020 election and concern that this gave outside groups access into the voting process.

“I think our clerks do an amazing job,” Bub said of the way elections are run, however he said it was good to be preemptive and ensure that there was no outside influence from any political side in the future.

Supervisor Greg Knight said he agreed with the intent of keeping private money out of the election process, but objected to what he saw as partisan language in the draft resolution.

“I would like to keep the partisanship out of it,” Knight said, adding there was incorrect information in the resolution and supporting document specifically noting that no laws were circumvented and there was no evidence of fraud occurring in any of the investigations and audits into the election.

“No election laws were changed or broken by any municipality,” Knight said, noting the language in the resolution implies that it was.

Knight proposed an amendment to remove sections of the resolution he identifi ed as being overly partisan. The amendment failed with eight in favor and nine opposed.

The original resolution was then passed on a vote of nine in favor and eight opposed.

In other business, supervisors:

_ Approved allocating $14 million of unused county borrowing capacity to Bug Tussel in order for the private company to secure financing for the construction of a high speed internet loop consisting of a combination of towers and buried fiber optic cable. While the county assumes a small amount of risk if the company were to not pay its loans, the financing is part of a project involving eight counties and totaling $140 million. The company will pay the county 40 basis points for the use of the excess borrowing capacity during the term of the financing agreement. If the company defaults, the county will be able to take any towers or equipment in the county as collateral. The impact to county residents for the project is to greatly speed up the availability of affordable high speed internet specifically in the northern third of the county completing a loop of service around the entire county. “This is the last step we have to approve to connect our residents in Taylor County,” Bub said. The county has a total borrowing capacity of 78 million and with its comparatively low amount of existing debt should have ample room in borrowing as needed.

David Kahan (left) received a plaque from county board chairman Jim Metz recognizing Kahan for his 37 years of service as a Taylor County sheriff’s deputy. Kahan started with the county in 1984 and retired on April 9. During his time with the county Kahan served as master firearms instructors tactical response instructor, SWAT team member, heavy truck enforcement officer, project lifesaver coordinator, DNR patrol coordinator, and field training officer for the department.BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS