Abele proposes common-sense changes to county sick leave, vacation policies

Image courtesy Milwaukee Courier

Earlier this week Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele (pictured, left) proposed a series of changes to Milwaukee County’s sick leave and vacation policies, changes that would undoubtedly save the county money while avoiding abuses of the sick leave and vacation policies like the case of Renee Booker, who received a $52,000 payout from the county earlier this year for just over 30 days of service in a top county administrative job. Booker’s payout included $12,000 in salary, $25,000 for sick leave he accumulated during a previous 26-year career with the county and $15,509 in vacation pay after Booker “earned” two full years of vacation time thanks to the fact that he was hired in late December 2010.

Abele will implement two revisions to the county’s sick leave and vacation policies immediately via executive order. The first revision will cap unused vacation time that can be carried over from year to year at seven days, with the current maximum being fifteen days. Additionally, Abele will order a phased-in change in which county employees will receive their vacation vacation credit for the next year on their employment anniversary date, rather than having all employees getting vacation time credited to them on January 1. Speaking about the changes he’s proposed, Abele said, “If anything over the last week is clear, it’s that the current system for handling sick leave and vacation time is broken and in need of serious reform.”

In addition to the two changes Abele will make via executive order, he has also indicated he will seek approval from the County Board for the following sick leave/vacation changes to be made:

  • Cap the number of unused sick leave days that can be converted at retirement to cash or credit toward health insurance to 30 days, down from the current policy which allows an unlimited number of unused sick days to be converted at retirement to cash or credit towards health insurance.
  • Base retirement sick leave payouts to the average salary paid over an employee’s last three years on the job.
  • Delay vacation credit for returning employees for six months so that they aren’t immediately eligible for a full year’s worth of vacation.
  • Gradually restore sick leave compiled over a previous stint with the county for a returning employee to a maximum of 120 days. There currently is no maximum.

By and large I believe Chris Abele’s proposed changes to the county’s sick leave and vacation policies make sense; however I believe implementing a cap of 30 days on the amount of unused days that can be converted to a credit towards health insurance at retirement is unnecessarily drastic. While I don’t believe in giving county employees the ability to “cash in” an unlimited number of unused sick days upon retirement, allowing retirees to convert a reasonable amount (say, 6 months) of their unused sick days into a credit towards health insurance premiums is a reasonable step that would not only save the county money but would also allow many retirees ample time to obtain health insurance coverage for their post-employment lives.


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