City of Stuart workers cashed in more than $500K in paid time off in 2010February 4th, 2011 by Post Staff
STUART — Stuart Police Sgt. Marty Jacobson wishes the city did not force him to cash in nearly $12,000 worth of vacation and sick leave he had saved up during his 26 years on the job in case he is confronted by a personal emergency.
“We had no choice in the matter,” Jacobson said. “I don’t want this (money). I want the time on the books. I personally set it aside in the event that you get hurt in the line of duty, I need something to fall back on as an insurance policy.”
Jacobson was among 123 city employees who received payouts totaling $555,291 in banked paid time off in 2010 after city officials set a new cap of 600 hours, or 72 days, on the amount of time off that can be saved, city records show.
The 2010 PTO payouts ranged from a high of $15,511 for Public Works Director Samuel Amerson, who had saved 880 hours, to a low of $80 for a police dispatcher who had 3.75 hours more than the 600-hour limit.
In contrast, 21 city employees cashed in a total of $114,872 in paid time off during the 2009 budget year, city records show. The payouts ranged from a high of $12,073 to a low of $686.
City Manager Dan Hudson said the 600-hour cap on PTO was instituted during the 2010 budget year to encourage city employees to use their paid time off for vacations and health issues, rather than as a way to boost their pay.
“Late in 2009 the city realized that our PTO policy was creating a financial burden on the budget and we began evaluating different alternatives,” Hudson said. “The problem we identified in the old policy is that it had created an incentive to individuals to take their PTO in pay rather than taking the time off. Under the new policy, the total is now capped, making it basically a use-it-or-lose-it once you reach the cap.”
The City Commission directed city administrators to amend the union contracts to institute the 600-hour cap on banked PTO, Hudson said. The Stuart Police Officers Association and Local 2411 of the International Association of Fire Fighters agreed to the changes.
“This was done and agreed to by the unions, with an effective date of Oct. 1, 2010, as a part of the overall contract negotiations,” Hudson said. “No one was forced to do anything. PTO is provided for employees to be able to take vacations, attend to medical needs and the like. It is not intended to provide a monetary incentive. When we realized our policy was doing that, we changed the policy and the employees voluntarily agreed to the change.”
Fire Rescue Lt. Dave Jackson, a vice president in IAFF Local 2411, which represents 38 city fire rescue workers, said the union does not like the new PTO cash-in policy because the workers wanted to save the additional time off for an emergency, but they also did not want to fight the city over the issue.
Fire rescue workers who suffer a serious injury while off duty could quickly go through 600 hours of paid time off and eventually lose their job if they are physically unable to perform their duties, Jackson said.
“Now it’s set up so that at 600 hours, boom, you’re done,” Jackson said.
Police Officer David Duran, the president of the Stuart Police Officers Association, described the city’s new PTO accrual policy as “contractual changes not bargained for by the union.”
Combined with an increase in overtime pay because of a reduction in the number of police officers patrolling the streets, the new PTO accrual policy helped drive the increase in the number of police union members who earned more than $100,000 during the 2010 budget year, Duran said in a prepared statement.
There were seven in 2010 compared to two in 2009, city records show.
But Duran did not respond to requests for comment about the changes to the city’s PTO accrual policy or the effect on union members.
Jacobson — who had saved up more than 906 hours of PTO, or 306 hours above the 600-hour cap — said the mandatory PTO payouts were “forced upon the union.”
“Sick leave was there for me should I have a traumatic injury or get hurt,” Jacobson said. “The City of Stuart put a cap on vacation and sick time accrual, which was never in place before. So, being a 26-year tenured employee with almost perfect attendance, my sick leave and vacation leave exceeded the new cap.”
In addition to reducing his emergency fund, the PTO payouts created federal income tax headaches for him, Jacobson said.
“It was a little perturbing because they pushed me into another tax bracket and I had to pay higher taxes,” Jacobson said.
City of Stuart PTO payouts in 2010
The following City of Stuart employees were paid more than $5,000 in banked Paid Time Off in 2010:
Name, title, PTO hours cashed in, total PTO payout
Samuel Amerson, public works director, 280 hours, $15,511
Clark Campbell, fire rescue battalion chief, 390.48 hours, $14,192
Mark Champion, fire rescue lieutenant, 405.5 hours, $13,453
David Cantrell, fire rescue battalion chief, 372.28 hours, $13,202
Brian Huffman, police master officer, 339.28 hours, $12,804
Michael Cullum, fire rescue battalion chief, 355.77 hours, $12,308
Martin “Marty” Jacobson, police sergeant, 306.06 hours, $11,869
Lori Marie Sunderman, fire chief, 228.29 hours, $11,812
Troy Bowser, fire rescue lieutenant, 312 hours, $10,354
Wayne Duffy, EMS support specialist, 242.25, $9,643
Dorothy Zaharako, financial services director, 160 hours, $9,568
Charles Iverson, purchasing manager, 200 hours, $7,895
James McLane, firemedic, 336.25 hours, $7,700
David Dyess, assistant police chief, 160 hours, $7,506
Joshua Greinstein, firemedic, 336 hours, $7,151
Thomas Harmer, police lieutenant, 160 hours, $7,148
Bruce Onizchak, police sergeant, 178.42 hours, $7,078
Steven Graff, police master officer, 186.09 hours, $7,051
Linda Toppi, human resources director, 172 hours, $6,783
David Hutton Jr., fire lieutenant, 200.24 hours, $6,644
William Pecci Jr., police sergeant, 160 hours, $6,611
Robert Allen, police officer II, 185.18 hours, $6,530
David Dyal Jr., assistant fire chief, 160 hours, $6,473
Kimberly Major, police sergeant, 160 hours, $6,345
Craig Argiro, sanitation equipment operator, 284.5 hours, $6,236
James Parks, team leader II, 192.6 hours, $6,106
Dennis Abell, police lieutenant, 136.56 hours, $6,104
David Lawson, fire lieutenant, 192 hours, $6,064
Margaret Schwartz, police master officer, 160 hours, $6,036
Daniel Pantel, police master officer, 160 hours, $6,036
Milton Leggett, deputy public works director, 164.86 hours, $5,899
Jeffrey Kittredge, police officer II, 160 hours, $5,881
Paul Nicoletti, city attorney, 87.42 hours, $5,833
William Reinert Jr., capital projects coordinator, 160 hours, $5,731
Frank Logalbo, police officer II, 160 hours, $5,703
Melvin Barbre, police officer II, 160 hours, $5,640
Charles Buchanan, police master officer, 160 hours, $5,612
John Taylor, fire rescue lieutenant, 168.07 hours, $5,577
Paul Hitchcock, team leader II, 160 hours, $5,326
Dennis Ashley, police officer II, 160 hours, $5,254
George McLain III, police master officer, 160 hours, $5,192
Elise Farrell, public safety executive secretary, 189.58 hours, $5,190
James Egbers, police sergeant, 130.14 hours, $5,173
Stephen Howard, computer systems operator, 170.7 hours, $5,158