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City-employee perk questioned

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 30, 2010
  • Sarasota
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Download the complete list of employees receiving comp time here.

As it looks to trim millions from next year’s budget, city of Sarasota management will be asked to re-examine a perk that no other Sarasota County salaried government workers receive.

The city’s exempt employees, those who do not receive overtime, are allowed to accrue comp time — hours worked over and above 40 hours per week that can be used for days off.

In the seven-and-a-half months from Oct. 1, 2009, to June 15, 2010, exempt employees at City Hall have earned 3,693 hours of comp time, which has an estimated value of $159,572.

More than 2,700 of that accrued comp time was used for time off, which had a monetary value of $118,437.
Mayor Kelly Kirschner requested the analysis of comp time, because he plans to ask that city management consider re-evaluating that perk during this month’s budget workshops.

“In all the previous places I’ve worked (in the private sector), you don’t receive comp time,” he said. “That’s why you’re paid that salary.”

But City Manager Bob Bartolotta said he supports comp time, because, in some cases, managers may end up earning less money than the employees they supervise.

Bartolotta gave an example of a sewage spill occurring on a weekend.

“Fifteen employees are there, most of them getting overtime,” the city manager said. “But the manager is not paid for that time.”

Bartolotta’s preference is that the city moves to more of a private-sector model in which employees are salaried and do not keep strict track of their hours. If someone works 12 hours one day and wants to take the next afternoon off, they will be allowed to do it, with no questions asked.

Two years ago, the city manager revised the comp-time policy, because he said it was too lenient. It allowed exempt employees to recharge their comp-time accounts indefinitely.

They were allowed to accrue 80 hours per year, but if they used any of that comp time, they were allowed to accrue more to stock their accounts with 80 hours again.

Currently, the policy allows a maximum of 80 hours per year, with no recharging. Although, if a portion of comp time is unused during a fiscal year, an employee can request that the time be carried over into the next year. The carry-over period can be no longer than three months after the beginning of the new fiscal year.

“We’ve tightened up the rules,” said Bartolotta.

Even that with that limitation, city of Sarasota employees get a perk that no other government in Sarasota County allows its workers.

Neither the county, town of Longboat Key, city of Venice, nor city of North Port allows its exempt employees to receive comp time. Neither does the city of Bradenton. The cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa allow some exempt employees to accrue comp time, but no one on management level or higher.

Bartolotta acknowledges that it’s unusual for government workers to receive comp time.

“It’s a tough situation,” he said. “It’s not a significant amount of money.”

The city manager said if the City Commission wants to address comp time for exempt employees that’s fine.

“It’s up to the will of the commission,” he said.

Kirschner will ask that the policy be revisited, because even though the city cut 35 positions last week to save $1.8 million, it still needs to trim more than $3 million from the 2011 budget.

“When times are fat, there may be a good argument for keeping (comp time),” said Kirschner. “But we need to look at saving every dime.”

Comp time Oct. 1, 2009, to June 15, 2010

                    Hours          Value
Earned         3,693.24     $159,572
Used            2,740.6       $118,437


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