ATASCADERO — The Atascadero City Council approved revisions to the Atascadero Personnel System Rules, which includes a solution to the city’s vacation accrual issue.
Though the city has a rule limiting vacation accrual to two years’ worth, some city employees have vacation time far in excess of that limit. Though city officials said they were aware of the issue, no action had been taken until citizen and former mayor Mike Brennler brought it up at the May 24, 2011, city council meeting.
According to a story printed in the Atascadero News, Brennler said he did an informal audit of the city’s financial documents and found that 25 of the city’s employee workforce had exceeded the accrual limits. One employee has 2,000 vacation hours above the limit — each employee gets a certain number of vacation hours built up per year, with that certain number dependent on what the job is — while the total of over-the-limit hours comes up to 6,000.
According to City Administrative Services Director Rachelle Rickard, the city has not been enforcing its vacation accrual policy for at least 20 years.
The policy, Atascadero Personnel Rule 15.2(c), states: “Employees shall cease to accumulate vacation once their accrued vacation balance has reached two times their current annual accrual. Further accumulation of vacation leave shall not occur until the employee’s vacation leave balance falls below the maximum amount that can be accumulated. Upon recommendation of the department head with concurrence of the city manager, an employee may accumulate vacation beyond the maximum under exceptional circumstances.”
City Attorney Brian Pierek said that because it had been the city’s practice to allow vacation to be accrued without limit, that the city had to meet and confer with the employees’ collective bargaining unions.
Lewis said that he met with all the bargaining unions on the revisions to the personnel system rules and what he presented on Tuesday had been agreed to by the unions.
To remedy the issue, but still give the employees the vacation they are due, a second tier will be created for employees hired after July 1. Those employees will only be able to accrue two times of their annual vacation time.
For current employees, they will have two banks of vacation time, which will go into effect on Oct. 20. One will hold historical vacation leave and the other current vacation leave. On Oct. 20, vacation time in excess of two year’s worth will be moved to the historical vacation leave bank as well as the lesser of one times the employee’s annual accrual or one-half of the employee’s vacation balance.
Assistant City Manager Jim Lewis said the reason for the gap of time and the two banks is to allow employees the chance to use their vacation time, but not hinder the city’s operations by there being a run on vacation requests.
“This is an easy [process] to implement,” Lewis said. “It sounds difficult, but it’s easy.”
Brennler said that he’s glad that some action has been taken on the issue.
“What galls me is that this has been going on for long,” Brennler said. “There is no reason it should have taken so long.”
To view the entire meeting, go to www.atascadero.org or Charter Cable Channel 20. To view the complete changes made the personnel system rules, go to the city’s website and look in the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
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