Supervisors still struggling with changes to Mohave's PTO policy

KINGMAN - Mohave County employees currently on the government payroll will continue to accrue up to 900 hours of paid time off, and the hours won't change for new employees hired after Jan. 1, pending legal review of county personnel policy.

The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 at Monday's regular meeting to seek a legal opinion from a Phoenix law firm about changing the policy, with an executive session scheduled for the Oct. 19 board meeting to put together a list of questions for the attorney.

Supervisor Hildy Angius, who is pushing to reduce the PTO accrual rate and the amount of hours that can be carried over each year and cashed out upon separation, expressed dismay that minutia has drawn out the issue for months.

Enough time has been spent on workshops, listening to public comment - all of which came from county employees and department heads - and mulling over the legalities, Angius said.

"Now it's time to move on and vote," she said.

Angius made a motion to adopt a revised policy for new employees only that would reduce PTO accrual rate from 8 hours a pay period to 4.62 hours a pay period, and reduce rollover from 600 hours a year to 300 hours. The motion failed 2-3, with Supervisors Jean Bishop, Gary Watson and Buster Johnson opposed.

"I was going to look at current employees, but I can see the writing on the wall, so no," Angius said. "I was under the impression that the board was in favor of the changes for new employees. This is an unexpected turn of events."

Bishop made a motion to leave the PTO policy unchanged for current employees, and Watson seconded the motion, but it also failed, 2-3, so the only progress on the item was to seek legal opinion on supervisors' power to change future policy.

Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe said he could not argue that PTO hours aren't excessive, but he wanted to talk about how they got that way.

"The reason hours of accrual are so high is because Mohave County used them as a benefit," McCabe told the board. "We've never been able to give them a fair market wage, so we have a better benefits package and some people it appeals to. We're looking at something a lot of them find as a great benefit."

Police officers and firefighters don't care about plaques and awards as much as they do about spending time with their families, Bill Whiting said during public comment.

"Please leave and keep the current PTO policy intact for current employees," he repeated during this three-minute comment period.

Angius wants to cut paid time off to 15 days a year for new employees in their first three years, compared with the current policy of 21 days a year. It's still "very generous" and falls in line with other counties, she said.

Employees with four to nine years of tenure would get 20 days off a year, those with 10 to 14 years would get 25 days and those with 15 or more years would get 30 days.

Paid time off would still be kept in one "bucket," and would not be divided into vacation days and sick days, Angius added.

She also noted that PTO was combined into one package when short-term disability was eliminated, and reminded everyone that short-term disability is back.

"I asked people how many used short-term disability and the answer was two. It's something not used often. I want that on the record," Angius said. "It's not a benefit package to make up for salary."

Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles Gurtler said the court just lost a management employee who took a job in Yavapai County at a lesser position for more money.

Bringing PTO to the average in Yavapai and Yuma counties while wages are lower "puts us behind the 8-ball" in recruiting top-notch employees, the judge said.

"I for one don't want to settle for being an average county," Watson said after hearing from the sheriff and judge. "I don't think it's a good idea to restrain departments from going out and getting top employees."

In other Board of Supervisors action Monday:

• The board voted 5-0 to table a zoning use permit to allow a 195-foot wireless communications tower and three 1,000-gallon fuel tanks in the Silverado vicinity of U.S. Highway 93, between Crazy Horse Road and Farrier Road. Two citizens spoke on the item, both concerned about safety issues and who would provide emergency response in case of a fuel leak or fire.

• The board voted 5-0 to deny an extension of time for a rezone of a parcel from agricultural-residential (10-acre minimum lot size) to general commercial highway frontage in the Silverado area. The same two citizens addressed the board about "common sense" and checking the "track record" of people who request zone changes and never carry out what they say they're going to do.

• The board voted 5-0 to rescind a zoning change and revert property in White Hills from general manufacturing back to general (5 acre minimum) for failure to meet conditions of approval.

• As part of the consent agenda, the board approved preliminary distribution of $3.4 million from the Mineral Park Mine bankruptcy settlement to related authorities.