What was conceived as a Christmas bonus for Highlands County's rank-and-file employees who hadn't received pay raises for five years turned into a vacation time buyback last month.
Interestingly, said Commissioner Jim Brooks, the buyback was used just as much by department heads, including County Administrator June Fisher, who sold 40 hours for $2,577.
"June has been so busy, she hasn't taken any time off in a long time, so I don't have any problem with that," Brooks said.
Other managers: County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete, $2,012; two of his assistant engineers, Robert Dieffendorf, $1,480, and Elius Nortelus, $1,675; Champion for Children Advocacy Center Director Jeff Roth, $1,029; Highlands County Emergency Management Director Scott Canaday, $1,113; Emergency Operations Director Tim Eures, $1,509; Highlands County Development Services Director Mark Hill, $1,827; Administrative Services Director Jed Secory, $1,530; and Tourism Director John Scherlacher, $1,164.
Five of the seven workers in the Building Official's office sold 40 hours of their vacation time to Highlands County, including S.Y. Moseley for $1,553.
Workers had until Jan. 18 to decide, and 89 — about 30 percent — sold at least 8.5 hours, and received as little as $100. The least amount paid for 40 hours was $383.
Although more than $66,000 was withdrawn, Office of Management and Budget Senior Manager Timothy R. Mechling reminded that the $1.6 million fund had been set aside for exactly that purpose.
"This payout reduced the liability of the county," Mechling said.
"This concept had two parts to it," Commissioner Don Elwell said. "One immediate portion being was able to offer it now. It probably caught a lot of employees by surprise, but some had accumulated a good amount of paid time off, so it doesn't surprise me that not as many of the line staff employees didn't have as much vacation time to sell."
In a few months, Elwell expects commissioners to vote on a permanent paid-time-off policy that may include a sell-back option for up to 40 hours annually.
"When they need money for holidays and expenses, they'll have all year to plan for that," Elwell said. "I expect a greater percentage will be able to take advantage of that at the time."
"Being able to make a difference in their lives, I think that was very cool," Elwell said.