Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

Cnty 5's New BuyBack Plan: Xmas Bonus & Sword of Damocles, New Employees Need Not Apply

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night's meeting of the County 5 was short, but it may not have been short enough for the employees who have been left out of the newly approved County 5 Employee Leave BuyBack "Xmas Bonus" plan. The BuyBack plan is County Manager Ben Scott's first major proposal as County Manager. According to the meager information provided to The 5, the final version of the policy came out of Assistant County Manager Scott Ward's office.

County Manager's Claim Unsupported by the Official Record: the County Minutes

County Manager Scott began his presentation to The 5, "We discussed during the budget – changes to our employee personnel policies. One of the issues that we have is absenteeism. The goal of this buyback program is to encourage employees to take less time off."

The County 5 minutes for 2015 do not support the Scott assertion. A global search of the official minutes show zero hits on the word "personnel." The phrase "personnel policy" is also nonexistent.

Annual & Sick Leave policies

How does the new policy work? It's really a bonus.

Mr. Scott explained that an employee must have 160 hours of both annual and sick leave in the bank in order to be eligible for the program. It takes approximately 2 years, taking no sick time or vacation, to accumulate 160 hours.

The County is willing to purchase up to 40 hours of annual leave and 40 hours of sick leave. Sick leave is purchased at 25% of the employee's hourly rate. Additionally, if the employee wishes to deposit his bought-back time in a Health Savings Account, the County's taxpayers get to pay a 5% bonus, which Mr. Scott said pays the federal tax.

Mr. Scott said, "We're saying, look – if you've done a good job, we're going to reward you. This is a way for us to help reward you."

He continued, "If you pass this policy tonight, we would like to do it immediately. Then do it again next year on September 30th."

A Cost Benefit Analysis; Spreadsheets; Pie Charts
Not from Mr. Scott

Without one iota of documentation Mr. Scott told The 5, "Today, if every employee that's eligible participated, it would cost about $75,000."

Long time member of The 5, Ronald Williams said, "It's a good way to reward good employees."

Commissioner DePratter added, "I am for any way that we can try to reduce the liability the County has."

Chairman Bucky Nash: Not convinced

The new policy.                  Click to enlarge

Chairman Nash said, "If I cash in 40 hours of my sick leave, I'm going to get paid 25% of that, for a Christmas bonus or whatever."

Mr. Scott explained, "It's a buyback. We can't call it a Christmas bonus, but it's going to be around that time of year."

Mr. Nash questioned the reasoning, telling Mr. Scott that he could take the days off and get paid 100% for his sick time.

Mr. Scott said, "That's what's happening now."

Mr. Nash responded, "Then you're not solving the problem."

Mr. Scott added Chairman Nash would be losing the 25% bonus for not taking the days off.

Commissioner Williams: folks are abusing the system

Commissioner Williams said some employees take two days off at a time which does not require a doctor's note. "Those are the ones that are abusing the sick leave. We're just trying to reward those that does not do that. You're going to help those that does not abuse the system." (as spoken)

The Policy was not complete

Mr. Scott told The 5, "It's possible that we may come back to you six months from now and say, 'Look, this really hasn't been effective. We're going to come up with something else?'"

He continued, "Your staff is still debating that each week in our management meeting. We believe there are some more steps that are going to be coming in the future."

Commissioner Nash said, "OK. We'll see if it works."

"Self Explanatory"

Mr. Scott summarized, continuing to avoid the question regarding why a person is not able to cash out their sick and leave time if they have had a disciplinary action.

Your reporter asked, "What's the disciplinary part? That still hasn't been explained."

The County Manager continued to ignore the question.

Chairman Nash told Mr. Scott, "Explain the disciplinary thing."

County Manager Scott explained, "It's self-explanatory. Employees that are disciplinary problems are not eligible for this. We give verbal reprimands, but that doesn't count. It has to be a written reprimand in your personnel file."

That answer was good enough for Chairman Nash.

The policy passed unanimously.


This policy is another disciplinary tool for the County's good ole' boy management; gives bonuses around Xmas and leaves out new employees.

The County 5: the legend continues.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.