Trumbull commissioners agree change needed on cash-out policy
By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County commissioners and Auditor Adrian Biviano apparently agree that a change needs to be made to a program that allows county employees to cash in unused sick and vacation time at the end of each year.
Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa felt strongly enough that he wanted a change to be made before a March 31 deadline, but Commissioners Dan Polivka and Frank Fuda were OK with rolling out the change later this year.
The matter came up for a vote Wednesday, with Fuda and Polivka voting to keep the program as-is for 2019 and Cantalamessa voting no. The legislation would have affected only non-union employees. The commissioners reauthorized the program for union employees last week.
The county’s “Sick and Vacation Leave Conversion Plan” costs the county $1.2 million to $1.4 million per year, said Richard Jackson, county human-resources director – adding that most counties have this type of program.
The program is open to union and non-union employees, but changing the program for union employees would require a change to their collective-bargaining agreement, Jackson said.
Jackson said he recommended to the commissioners that they notify the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System by the March 31 deadline that the program will remain in effect for 2019, but roll out a modified program this summer that would take effect in 2020.
That would leave three months or so at the end of the year “so it could be discussed,” Jackson said.
“We agreed it has to be changed,” Fuda said about a meeting he attended several weeks ago at which he said the commissioners and Biviano discussed it and all agreed to make a change.
Fuda said he did not know Cantalamessa was going to vote against waiting a year and said late Wednesday he is open to rescinding Wednesday’s decision if that is what Cantalamessa wants, and doing something sooner.
Fuda said Jackson discussed the idea with county judges and department heads and most were not in favor, but “a few were OK with tweaking it.”
Cantalamessa said after the meeting the reason for changing the program is that the county’s economy took a blow with the end of production of the Chevrolet Cruze at the GM Lordstown assembly plant last week.
“This is not a popular decision, but that does not make it any less necessary,” Cantalamessa said. “Cost-containment and cost-cutting strategies are always met with resistance, but this issue demands fiscal responsibility.”
As for why he voted no Wednesday on continuing the program another year, Cantalamessa said: “We can’t have another year of it.”
According to information provided to county officials, Chris Becker, an assistant county prosecutor, cashed out the most of any county employee in 2018 – $22,482 for unused sick and vacation time. Because these amounts qualify as income for retirement purposes, the county paid another $5,171 in retirement benefits on it.