PTO policy continues to bedevil Mohave County

KINGMAN - Mohave County Supervisor Hildy Angius is getting frustrated with the time it's taking to revise the paid time-off policy for Mohave County employees, specifically the amount of PTO hours that can be carried over from year to year and cashed out upon retirement or separation.

Angius placed an item on the Mohave County Board of Supervisors' regular agenda to refer the current PTO plan to an independent outside expert for review and consideration of options.

The board voted 5-0 Tuesday to continue the item to its next meeting on Sept. 21, and Angius said she would provide the name of a lawyer who could take on the project.

"We can't vote on the new hours? Then forget it," Angius responded when told that the specifics of the PTO policy were not part of Tuesday's discussion. "One of the things we've been told is we're dragging this on too long."

Angius made a motion to bring the proposal to an independent lawyer for review, and Chairman Steve Moss seconded the motion.

Supervisor Gary Watson, a staunch supporter of keeping the PTO policy intact for current employees, said he has no problem with seeking expert advice, but he wants to know the cost parameters.

Angius suggested up to $2,500, and Moss, a lawyer himself, said that's probably one day of legal work. He doubled the amount to $5,000.

Bill Whiting of Kingman spoke in opposition of changing the policy for current employees. The county doesn't award "shiny medals" for the work of sheriff's deputies and firefighters, so spending paid time off with their families is their reward, he said.

Angius talked with Ken Cunningham, Mohave County's director of human resources, and was told that the county could hire 50 to 70 new employees between now and Jan. 1, when the new policy would take effect.

Angius said the PTO proposal for new hires is in line with other Arizona counties. New employees would get 15 days, or 120 hours, of paid time off in each of their first three years, increasing to 20 days for four to nine years, 25 days for 10 to 14 years, and 30 days for 15 years or more.

Rollover hours would be reduced from 900 hours currently to 400 hours over the next seven years.

There was some discussion about separating paid time off into sick time and vacation time. County Administrator Mike Hendrix said he prefers managing PTO over vacation and sick time. The policy results in more employees taking more vacation days and fewer sick days, which result in unscheduled absences. It gives him more control over when employees take time off, he said.

In other action Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors:

• The board voted 4-1 with Supervisor Buster Johnson opposed to move two remaining staff members from the Office of Management and Budget to the Treasurer's Office at their same salary, with special consideration for special projects for the board.

The OMB director retired in June and Hendrix recommended that funds for that salary be shifted to the Treasurer's Office to cover any extra expenses, with the remainder going into the general fund contingency.

• The board voted 5-0 to adopt a resolution asking Congress to provide for full funding without delay for PILT, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes, in 2016 on federal land in Mohave County, and that Congress work to find a long-term funding solution for the future.

The national average for PILT payments is 72 cents an acre, and $37 million went unfunded in 2015. Mohave County is comprised of 8.6 million acres, of which 7.4 million acres (86 percent) are held by the federal government and not available for economic development and not part of the property tax base.