May 21, 2024

Updated vacation policy puts caps on accruals to avoid budget concerns

Supervisors want to avoid huge payouts, approved policy to go into effect 2024

Jasper County Human Resources Director Dennis Simon and Melissa Hartgers, deputy auditor of payroll and benefits, participate in work session with the board of supervisors at a past meeting.

Jasper County employees with an overabundance of vacation hours saved up have forced the board of supervisors to update its policies in order to avoid massive payouts, which could lead to budgeting issues. As a result, the new policy states no one is allowed to accrue more than 280 hours of vacation leave.

The Jasper County Board of Supervisors approved the new policy at its Aug. 22 meeting, but the framework has been in the works for some time. Several work sessions have been held after the regular meetings to discuss the updated policy and the issues that have come about as a result of too much vacation hours.

Newton News previously reported 21 employees have more than 280 vacation hours; the employee with the most would receive about $12,000 in payout.

Dennis Simon, director of human resources for Jasper County, presented the updated policy. The most impactful change is the limits on vacation leave accruals, which go into effect Sept. 21, 2024. Hourly and salaried employees will not be allowed to go over 280 hours of vacation time.

Vacation leave may not be taken in advance, either. An employee also may not waive their vacation right in order to both collect vacation and pay for hours worked. Employees that reach their maximum accrual of 280 hours will have their accruals turn off until they are below the maximum number of hours.

If a county employee becomes an elected official, all accrued benefits must be taken or paid out within 45 days of the first official day in office. If an employee is appointed to fulfill an office holder’s position, the accrued benefits can be taken or banked until the next election and the employee is elected into office.

In the policy, it states Jasper County encourages all employees to utilize their accrued vacation leave annually. Which was an area of concern during the work sessions leading up to the policy’s approval. The challenge from the county is enforcing this rule and making sure department heads are following through, too.

Employees over the 280-hour maximum have one year to burn down their vacation time, Simon said.

Brandon Talsma, chair of the board of supervisors, had no objections and asked Simon to write a notice to those employees to let them know they will still be allowed one year to accrue vacation time, but they are encouraged to spend down their hours. Simon said he would do so and use the board’s letterhead.

According to the policy, county employees can start accruing vacation leave hours as early as the first month of work, but they cannot use any until they have reached six months of full-time continuous employment. Each pay period earns vacation hours.

County employees have bi-weekly pay periods. According to the county’s vacation leave schedule, and considering there are 26 pay periods in a year:

• Employees who worked one month to four years earn about 80 hours in a year.

• Employees who worked five to nine years earn about 120 hours in a year.

• Employees who worked 10 to 14 years earn about 140 hours in a year.

• Employees who worked 15 to 19 years earn about 160 hours in a year.

• Employees who worked 20 or more years earn about 200 hours in a year.

If the average work day is eight hours, then the aforementioned employees essentially accrue 10, 15, 17.5, 20 or 25 vacation days in a single year.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.