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Tue, Feb. 18

Guest Column: PTO issue just business as usual for county supervisors

Editor's note: This column was written in response to the July 8 Daily Miner article concerning proposed changes to paid time off policies for Mohave County employees.

Although this article briefly touches upon the discussion around Finance Director Coral Loyd's statements, it was probably one of the more important moments in the entire meeting. Every single employee would have to leave for the county to be on the hook for $6.1 million.

I think there might be other issues at hand if such an event were to come to pass. And funnily enough, one of the reasons a large number of people would leave at one time, leaving the county in a lurch and beholden to multiple thousands of dollars in payouts, would be reducing the benefits for current employees.

You'd have people with banks of 400-plus hours who were on the cusp of retirement, but uncertain when to actually go through with it, leaving in the run-up to the enactment of any measure that either reduces the number of hours you can cash out with, or does away with it entirely as Supervisor Steve Moss proposes. Nothing says saving money like paying out to a bunch of people all at once and then spending more money to retrain replacements.

Mr. Moss likes to bring up the business model, and Supervisor Hildy Angius likes to bring up the "middle-sized counties in Arizona" model. What that really does is constrain us to mediocrity, which is really the new American model.

The United States remains the sole country in the advanced world to not guarantee paid time off. We should be proud of the fact that we're one of the upper echelon of employers in this regard; we stand with the likes of Germany, Austria and Spain. Why are the American business model and the middle-sized counties in Arizona model something we aspire to? Just because businesses can get away with treating employees who can't unionize in this "right to work" state as refuse to be worked and discarded, doesn't mean the government that handles critical services should be so eager to follow. It's disappointing that after all the good I've heard of Mr. Moss, this is the angle he shoots for.

Finally, for those who are beholden to saving money: an employee at their desk an extra 20 days a year is easily quantifiable. But guess what? That's 20 days a year they aren't taking the money they've earned and putting it into the local economy. Paid time off means vacations; vacations mean spending money. Spending money is what drives the economy and local businesses.

I've worked in and around three different hubs as part of the county government, and in every area, I see hard-working individuals who take three and four days off (using two PTO days in conjunction with their weekends) every so often who go and put money into our area, whether it be through hunting, eating, going to the river, eating at restaurants or just catching up on home projects that require the time to go purchase the supplies and put it into the home.

We aren't having grand and elaborate three-week vacations in other countries; we aren't taking all this time you've given us in lieu of raises or promotions and hiding in our homes counting the fat stacks. Most of us are typical Americans who like parting with our money. So there's your business angle, if you needed it.

Anyone can find a "base model" to fit what they want to do, which is look good for the low information voting taxpayer in the easiest way possible. But to do good things, to treat the employees of this county right by offering a wonderful benefit or doing something to make working for the county desirable, requires saying to them, "This will cost this - and in return, you'll get safer neighborhoods because the deputy who's working your area hasn't just worked extra shifts. You'll get utilities and roads workers who aren't burned out working for two people."

Those things don't easily show up in ledgers.

But of course, why should we care? This is America, after all.

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