Comp time, overtime and the MCSWMD

I really wish the Herald-Times would actually research and think about what happens in local government before writing an editorial about it. Not only would that be more informative to the H-T readership but it would also be more fair to local government officials. Such is the case with the editorial board’s uninformed statement about compensatory time off in the September 22 editorial.

In addition to accrued Paid Time Off that was paid when he left the agency, the executive director of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District had accumulated 54.75 hours of comp time for hours worked above 40 hours in a week. The Herald-Times wrote “So many problems accompany ‘comp time’ that government should stay as far away from it as possible.”

That is a simplistic overreaction. If managed properly, compensatory time (even at 1.5 hours per hour worked) is less expensive than overtime because it requires no extra money from the employer – just additional time off for the employee. In fact, that has been one of the concerns about comp time, because of worries that employees will not get the added money owed them for extra work and will be forced to take time off instead. The problem comes when someone is allowed to accumulate a lot of comp time, because that creates a liability for the MCSWMD – and the taxpayers.

For the MCSWMD, comp time was clearly a better deal than overtime in this case. (For the employer, if not the employee.) Had the former executive director been paid overtime instead of hour-for-hour comp time, he would have been paid 82.13 hours instead of 54.75 hours. For those who are mathematically challenged, 82.13 is bigger than 54.75 and will cost more.

The problem for MCSWMD is not that comp time was allowed. In fact, the 54 hours of comp time was a only 19% of the 290 hours of paid time off. While some PTO accrual is wise (especially in the event of something like an unexpected serious illness) the question should be how much PTO and comp time should be allowed to be accrued. If the payout of over $9,000 for accrued hours is a problem, then the problem is the implementation of the policy, not the policy itself. No policy is going to be perfect if it is not implemented well.

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