Mt. Juliet City Commission votes to halt ‘liberal leave policy’

The Mt. Juliet News reported in a story on September 3rd about an action taken by the Mt. Juliet City Commission at their meeting on Monday, August 25th.

At the prompting of their City Manager, the City Commission voted 4-1 to halt what city leaders described as a “tremendously liberal leave policy.”

According to City Manager Randy Robertson, implementing this new vacation leave policy will in the long run save the tax payers a lot of money.

The only way to describe the simple-minded actions of the City Commission and the recommendations of the City Manager on this topic is that they are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

In fact, the new policy will not save the taxpayers any money at all. We should have suspected their math skills after this year’s budget debacle, but City Manager Robertson and the City Commission have once again demonstrated that they are innumerate.

Before the change to the policy, employees were credited with 2, 3, or 4 vacation weeks per year, depending upon their length of service with the city. After the change to the policy, employees are still going to be credited with 2, 3, or 4 vacation weeks per year, depending upon their length of service with the city. The only difference being how much total leave time they are able to accumulate. There is now a cap of 10 weeks. If an employee’s total earned vacation time would exceed 10 weeks at the end of a calendar year, then they lose the amount in excess of 10 weeks.

How will this save the city any money? Any savings are illusory.

Imagine you have a teen-ager and tell him or her that you’re going to give her (or him) a clothing allowance of $100/month by depositing that amount into a bank account. BUT, at the end of the year any money in the account over $250 they will forfeit. Will this save you any money in the long run?

The City Manager and the City Commission appear to be incapable of understanding the consequences of this new policy. One consequence I can confidently predict – employees are NOT going to forfeit any vacation time. Faced with a choice of use it or lose it, employees will make the rational decision to use their vacation time.

The only scenario that the city will no longer face is a hard-working, faithful employee who has taken fewer days than he (or she) had earned, being paid for their vacation days when they retire. They will now have all of their senior employees, mostly department heads, taking their four weeks of vacation every year rather than lose that benefit.

With 13 senior employees already at the level where they earn 4 weeks of vacation each year, the city has just lost the services of a senior employee for a full year. The police chief will be gone for a month; The public works director will be gone for a month; The city recorder will be gone for a month. It is an illusion to think that this saves the city any money in the long run.

To put it another way, suppose a city has 12 senior building inspectors who each perform 100 inspections a month, and there are 1200 inspections that need to be performed each month. If each of the building inspectors takes a 4-week vacation each year, then the city will need to hire 1 additional building inspector – NOW. And that extra building inspector will need to be paid along with the original 12 each year. If, however, the building inspectors choose to accumulate their leave for 10-12 years, then the city will need to hire an extra building inspector only when each of them retires. The city is going to have to pay for the same number of building inspectors for the same number of months under either scenario. There is no money saved by hiring an extra building inspector now, rather than paying for an extra one later.

But there may be some serious downside to the city if they lose a month of productivity from their senior employees each year now, out of a misguided “use it or lose it” strategy.

The city commission and the city manager are flat out wrong in their description of what this new policy will accomplish. It will not save the city any money – in fact, its immediate effect has been to cost the city $158,000.

Sounds to us like somebody just got sour grapes and a case of envy because a faithful employee, who worked for many years without taking much of the vacation they were entitled to is now taking the vacation days that they earned over the years by dedicated service to the city.

The new policy is an un-necessary annoyance to employees. It takes away a choice they previously had. It doesn’t save the city any money, but we’re guessing that it makes the City Manager and the City Commission feel good because they appear to be doing something.

But the citizens of Mt. Juliet ought to be disgusted at the incompetence of the management of the city.

And the Mt. Juliet News is wrong in their editorial. It’s not “sound fiscal policy.”

– Publius

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Mt. Juliet City Commission votes to halt ‘liberal leave policy’

  1. Butch Huber

    Publius,

    If I remember correctly, the military had a sixty day, or a 90 day cap, I can’t remember which. You actually could exceed the max, but you couldn’t cross over your Active duty entry date with more than the max or you would lose the extra days. The problem I faced when I was in the military was being able to take all of my leave.

    I think there new policy does have the prospect of saving tax dollars and I will explain “why”.

    If they can adopt an atmosphere under which they build a culture where it is not looked upon favorable for someone to use their vacation days, they will save money because people will forfeit days of vacation pay in order not to end up being passed over for promotions.

    Now the question is, would Randy develop that culture? He prides himself on not taking lunch. He puts a lot of time on the clock without taking comp time. (I don’t know if he is accomplishing much during his time he puts in, but he does put the time in. Judging by the quality of the budget he put in front of the commissioners I question how he uses his time, but that is another story.) He built in the purchase of the YMCA in the budget, but he was willing to limit the employee’s COLA to 2%. I think this change is a hostile policy toward city employees and it needs to be made to be employee friendly. If the city were to actually budget for the leave and put the money into a fund they would have what they need to operate now and in the future.

    When I was on the payroll committee I advised the city staff on that committee to make sure that they got the payroll issues right, because as soon as the money started rolling in from Providence these politicians would start funding pet projects like parks and such, and if they didn’t have the payroll set up right before the commissioners got their hands on the money they would probably never get payroll right. I was right, they are spending money faster than it is coming in and they are looking for other things to spend it on. Payroll never got straightened out, and today they are not much better off than before we started on the committee I am sad to say. Had we finished our work we would have come up with the right solution to the leave policy without there being the possibility of the government being able to abuse employees who were wanting to take vacations, yet rewarding those who chose to not use their leave.

  2. Bobby Franklin

    This vacation policy change is another example of a “sound bite quest” masquerading as sound management. This will cost taxpayers more money in both the short and long run.

    During the meeting tonight the City Manager said all the public record requests were overworking staff; the same staff that will now be forced to take more vacation.

    I’m going to sign off now and watch my Jack Russell chase his tail. He is getting faster.

  3. builder

    Why would the city manager say that all the public record requests were overworking the staff ???
    Do you think that’s because they have to go through and make sure there is no damning evidence being leaked out or maybe they need to backdate some things. Only time will tell.

  4. builder

    !!!Give a city manager enough rope!!!

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