Archive for Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lawrence employees to receive longevity bonuses, but city aims to reduce overtime pay in 2011

November 17, 2010


It was a win some, lose some night for Lawrence city employees.

On one side of the ledger, city commissioners Tuesday evening agreed to give employees a year-end longevity payment that will total about $400,000.

But on the other side of the equation, employees were told to expect some major changes aimed at reducing the amount of overtime the city pays in 2011.

In a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved the longevity program, which basically will pay each full-time city employee $48 for each year of service the employee has with the city.

“I’m impressed with the challenges we have put on the employees and how they have responded,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever. “They have been able to make it through the cuts and the scrutiny and still come to work and do a good job.”

Commissioners said they didn’t like the idea of dipping into the city’s savings account to pay for the program, but City Manager David Corliss said he was “reasonably confident” the city could find a way to make the budget balance by the end of the year. The city’s latest projections show it will be close.

The projections estimate that by funding the longevity program the city will need to dip into is fund balance account for about $100,000. But Corliss said there may still be ways to make more cuts to other city spending, or that revenues during the last three months of the year may come in higher than projected. Either way, Corliss said the city’s fund balance would remain healthy, with about a $12.4 million balance.

Commissioner Lance Johnson was the lone commissioner to vote against the program, which has been given to city employees for many years. Johnson said city employees were deserving, but that now was not the right time financially, and that he would rather reward employees based on their performance instead of longevity.

On the overtime issue, city commissioners signaled change is on the horizon. A report by city staff found the city has varying overtime policies for different departments, and that parts of the city’s policy are out of step with other area cities.

“We’re pretty much the most generous of anybody around,” City Commissioner Aron Cromwell said of the report’s findings.

Lawrence allows employees to count vacation time, holiday time and sick leave toward the 40 hours worked in a week. Federal law allows employers to not count holiday, vacation and sick time as hours worked when calculating whether an employee has exceeded 40 hours in a week. Lawrence was the only city out of seven surveyed where all three categories were part of the overtime calculation.

City Commissioner Rob Chestnut put together a memo proposing that the city no longer allow vacation and sick time to be counted toward an employee’s 40 hours when computing overtime. He also said a policy that allows some departments — but not all — to pay employees for overtime when more than eight hours are worked in a day should be discontinued. Chestnut said overtime should be computed based only on total hours worked in a week. Also, Chestnut said employees should be given the option of taking compensatory time off instead of overtime, as long as their supervisor approves.

Corliss recommended that the commission authorize a city employee task force to study the overtime issues. A majority of commissioners balked at that idea. Instead, commissioners said they wanted Corliss to develop a policy based off of Chestnut’s memo and then gather feedback from employees. The item is expected back for final approval by mid-February.

None of the overtime changes would impact members of the city’s fire and police department unions because their overtime polices are part of an employment contract. But the overtime issue could become an issue when those contracts expire in 2012.


somebodynew 6 years ago

OK Chad - I am pretty sure you didn't write the headline to this story, so not trying to pick on you. The headline "City to dole out....", makes is seem like the employees were just standing there with their hands out, just begging for some charity or something. This is a benefit that has been used as a recruitment tool and provided as a standard benefit for years. Maybe it is just me, but I took offense to the meaning of the headline - - AND I am not a City Employee.

stuckinthemiddle 6 years ago

I've got no problem with these bonuses...

but regarding the other pay issue that has come up recently, having to do with overtime and what constitutes working over 40 hours in a week, the city needs to adopt what Topeka has and what the state of Kansas has, which is that you actually have to be at work for over 40 hours in order for overtime to kick in...

if someone is off sick or on vacation or off for a holiday that time should not count towards their 40 hours...

simply put... pay people for overtime when they actually work overtime...

angel4dennis 6 years ago

Just curious how they decided on $48 per year figure? I am all for bonuses and longevity (although my job does nothing like this) but why not $20 per year. $20 x 5 =$100. That would be a nice bonus for Christmas and it wouldn't cut into the city's budget as much.

Lori Romero 6 years ago

Are you kidding me! You act like these city employees are wealthy its bad enough they dont get their cost of living bonus and please when they get evaluated its not even close their supervisors make it so its not 5% anymore what do you want them to do! As for overtime they do it because they are told to finish a job then they dont want to pay them for their extra time. Now some commissioner who I guarantee you doesnt have to work in the elements outside doesnt think they deserve to be rewarded for showing up year after year to do a job that nobody else wants to do. Pay them they all deserve it!

BruceWayne 6 years ago

again they continue to spend money WE DO NOT HAVE.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years ago

This is very similar to articles you see in the Topeka paper.

Since the LJ World can't figure out how to make money, it decides to take out it frustrations on government employees. It is "unfair" that employees of the newspaper are suffering.

There is nothing different about longevity pay for city employees in 2010 than there was in 2005 or 2000, etc.; what is different is that the local paper is laying people off and cutting staff costs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"Johnson said city employees were deserving, but that now was not the right time financially, and that he would rather reward employees based on their performance instead of longevity."

How would Mr. Johnson measure merit? Only after a specific policy is in place could it replace the longevity bonuses, which have become part of the compensation package expected by employees. If Mr. Johnson feels strongly about this, he should push for a change now, so that it can be implemented well before the bonuses are due, not a few weeks before Christmas when employees traditionally get them.

whiteguy 6 years ago

It would be great to reward employees based on performance , Oh wait the city already destroyed their merit based system that had been in place for most of the last past decades . The policys dont seem to matter in the city anymore .................. They do what they want !

cowboy 6 years ago

This is a known benefit that the employees have gotten and expect to receive. Established as a past practice it would be quite unfair to just pull it .

The OT policy as administered by 99% of businesses would not pay for OT when vacation / sick time is part of the equation but would pay OT if a holiday is part of the equation . Many companies are just moving to personal time without designation as sick / vacation.

Mike Hoffmann 6 years ago

"In a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved the longevity program, which basically will pay each full-time city employee $48 for each year of service the employee has with the city. "

You have to be with the City at least 5 years to receive the bonus, so it is not "each full-time city employee."

xclusive85 6 years ago

So, from many of the comments, compensation expected by employees, not guaranteed to them, should not be allowed to be changed. If the city said we wanted to give $75 for every year everyone would be fine with that then, right? My point is basically that it is ok to change a policy, and this policy should be changed to be merit based only.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

There is nothing stopping commissioners from ending or changing this policy. But they should do it for next year, not just before Christmas when many if not most employees are expecting it, and possibly even depending on it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"Put all the jobs up for bids."

Yea, let's have the city operate on a "musical chairs/chinese firedrill" model of efficiency.

sundowner 6 years ago

If the sanitation workers work from 6 am to 1:30 pm without a lunch break, how is that half days?

stevemarkcraig 6 years ago

What about friday when your all gone by 10.00 to 10.30 and when it snowing on friday its 8.30 to 9.30 because they put all the trucks out and forget about alley clean up

pace 6 years ago

The old supervisor of Sanitation used to regularly schedule pet employees for overtime, he made work in the regular schedule eligible for overtime . He is gone now, I hope his ways leave soon. He padded the payroll and expenses with tricks. He made overtime his slush fund for his buddies. I hope the new supervisor is a bit better than that. The employees that have given years of service deserve the year end bonus. They do the work. We could cut some of the Department head's expenses. The city has always been conservative on travel, they might send people for training but not easy for employees to go to glad handing conventions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

pace, I generally appreciate your comments, but I just don't buy this. I know you have had your personal differences with the former supervisor, and they may be well founded. But I have known him for several decades, and in this instance I just don't see him likely to have done what you charge.

pace 6 years ago

I have never said a negative word about the men and women who worked. I have seen them time after time, stick to a dirty hard job until this community was cleaner and safer. I think they deserved a modern administrator that understood the mechanics ,logistics and efficiency of such work. , not a glad handing good old boy. It is a skill to manage crews, trucks, and balance sheets. He did not have the skills to keep sanitation procedure in step with the times. He inherited a very well managed program. He didn't seem to understand that running it like it was 1970 wouldn't continue to work. His numbers were phantoms.Many were political answers rather than true figures. If they had gotten some one with experience in hauling and material management it would of served this city well. It is an expensive but vital service , he did not have those skills or acquire them. As for the overtime , yes there was regularly scheduled jobs that were overtime , done by the same people every week. He could of changed the work schedule and eliminated the overtime. I might be wrong with what his motives were but not about the effect. I am glad he was friendly to some in the public.

stevemarkcraig 6 years ago

Did you know that on KU FOOTBALL GAMES THAT START AT 11.30 AM the sanitation crew runs two trucks and there done by 7.30 to 8.00 and gets paid for 8 hours perty good payday cost over 550.00 dollars to run the route and pay for fuel thats on the low side

Mr_Missive 6 years ago

Let me understand this. How many of the City Commissioners have a bonus system paid this way at their place of business? I bet the answer is NONE. Shame on the hypocrites. The difference is they don't have to pay for the checks themselves like they do in their own businesses. They took the easy way out just like our Congress.

geekyhost 6 years ago

I've worked places that had a bonus system. I'm sorry you haven't.

jafs 6 years ago

Was it based solely on longevity, or was merit factored into it?

booyalab 6 years ago

I've worked places with bonus systems and longevity was a factor, but it wasn't the deciding factor. The deciding factor was, the owner of the company made a lot of money that year and it was a reward for everyone's contribution.

But with government employment, you have a very different system than a private business. There is no correlation between the work that civil servants do and the money that pays for it. That right there should tell us not to use a monetary reward system. Even merit-based pay is suspect because, if there is no objective output to which pay can be based, then "merit" is completely open to interpretation.

geekyhost 6 years ago

I've never worked at a place where merit was a factor for Christmas bonuses, though I have been at places that offered cash-awards as special occasion merit bonuses during other times of the year.

Christmas bonuses have almost always been doled out to everyone where I've worked, and longevity is usually rewarded with more vacation time. That's just been my experience, anyway.

lawrencehatesbusinesses 6 years ago

Lomgevity over merit is the best policy for government workers. They are the cream of the crop with the most desirable of jobs. It pleasures me immensely that longevity was the deciding factor and it insures any and all city employees future employment without retribution or worry.

If our government does not have the money now or in the future, they should raise our taxes. This is not good for businesses and it is a very good thing. Thank you commissioners for setting a fine example of your education, political leaning, and sense.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

Your sarcasm doesn't disguise your disdain for working people merely because they work for the city. That's despicable.

jafs 6 years ago

Merit bonuses and raises make more sense than longevity ones to me.

If the long-term employees are doing a good job, then they'll get rewarded.

If not, why should they?

lawrencehatesbusinesses 6 years ago

You are showing your disdain for working people. As I said before, in agreement with the poster above, longevity overides merit, as it should be.

jafs 6 years ago

I have great respect for all working people.

Why should longevity be more valued than merit?

jafs 6 years ago


Missed the sarcasm.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

The problem with merit pay is how merit is determined. So-called merit pay could very easily be abused by those in a position to award it, and it could be based on arbitrary standards that do little but allow supervisors to show favoritism.

Seems to me that if your job performance is of merit, you get to keep your job. Meaning that longevity raises are in fact merit-based raises, and they provide an incentive for quality employees to stay on the job.

jafs 6 years ago

Then employees at all levels of competence, from barely competent to extraordinary, receive the same benefits.

Doesn't seem fair to me.

And it does little to encourage excellence.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

I'm not opposed to a merit-based bonus system. I just don't think that it's an easy thing to implement, for reasons I outlined above.

And I think many people who like to throw it out there (especially with regards to teachers) really couldn't care less if it were actually implemented. I think their only reason for proposing it is to imply that the employees are lazy, incompetent, etc. because they believe that to be true by definition of anyone who works for the government.

stevemarkcraig 6 years ago

At one time the LONGEVITY PAY had a cap on the number of years of service but THE CITY DID AWAY WITH IT SO IF YOU HAVE 40 YEARS OF SERVICE YOU GET 40 X 48=1920 DOLLARS $$$$$$$$$$

geekyhost 6 years ago

And how many people have 40 years of service?

Centerville 6 years ago

"Lawrence allows employees to count vacation time, holiday time and sick leave toward the 40 hours worked in a week." How did that get started?

ronwell_dobbs 6 years ago

Apparently you must work in some sort of 3rd world sweatshop. If you are a salaried position this is the norm. Just step back a bit to think about it, mkay?

otto 6 years ago

This isn't the norm - the norm is for none of these items to figure into calculating overtime!

booyalab 6 years ago

It's not the norm for salaried positions to even get overtime, much less use vacation time to get to overtime sooner.

otto 6 years ago

Corliss recommended that the commission authorize a city employee task force to study the overtime issues. A majority of commissioners balked at that idea. Instead, commissioners said they wanted Corliss to develop a policy based off of Chestnut’s memo and then gather feedback from employees. The item is expected back for final approval by mid-February.

What a joke - Evidently the only task force we need is a search comittee for a new city manager.

JimmyJoeBob 6 years ago

If the City wants to do away with longevity they should stop using it as a recruitment technique. Then inform these new employees they will not be eligible for it once they reach the five year minimum. The city can then faze longevity out of the system as the current employees receiving longevity retire from the city.

Jennifer Alexander 6 years ago

Overtime? What is overtime? I havent had that in YEARS!!!!!!

somedude20 6 years ago

Instead of giving them overtime try giving them comp time. You work an extra two hours than you get two back. Seems like overtime is taxed at a higher rate anyway but with comp time you get time off with pay

werekoala 6 years ago

Funny how the city's basically just sitting on the information we got from our peer cities that Lawrence has the LOWEST ratio of overtime to straight time in the metro area. It's less than 4% of payroll; the average is 5% or more.

Cost-effectiveness sounds good, but there are plenty of tasks that need doing right away; and so the city frequently has to require that policemen, firemen, EMTs, water workers, plow drivers, etc come in at odd hours with little notice.

Imagine it's Saturday night, your entire family is over for dinner and all of a sudden you get a call that you have to come in right away or risk losing your job. "Oh well," you tell yourself, "At least I'll be getting time-and-a-half." But wait, you took three hours off on Monday morning for a doctor's appointment... So you're just doing it for straight time now. And oh by the way your supervisor tracks who's taken time off that week and they're the first on the chopping block for any unpleasant after-hours task. So no one wants to take time off because they might end up being called in on the weekend.

I'm just saying that when a water line breaks at 3 in the morning, I don't want the guys fixing it to be demoralized and have a perverse incentive to stretch the repair time. If we only look at the bottom line in life, no one would have kids or take care of aging parents.

betti81 6 years ago

Go to the state system. Vacation and sick don't count. If you have to work a holiday it counts for comp time. Comp time is banked on a 1.5 times regular hours up to 90 hours. Any balance above must be paid out and if an employee leaves, must be paid out by the department. Can't believe they can earn OT without physically working more than 40 hours a week - what an abuse of the system. And the state system is in the week, not the day. It allows for a very flexible schedule in positions where nights and weekends are required.

my two go away rain!

beaujackson 6 years ago

Well, isn't that nice - a fat bonus for doing an (already) overpaid job.

As a retired person, my expenses continually rise, while my income is continually reduced.

What's fair about that?

geekyhost 6 years ago

Yes. The solution for every perceived injustice is to make sure other people are also miserable. Way to go.

pace 6 years ago

Keep working, expecting extra money when you are not working is a bit optimistic. I say showing up means a lot. A lot of people don't show up. When I am hiring I try to pick people who will show up. It is harder than it should be.

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