Home Politics $65,000 in owed payment to city workers brings about new legislation

$65,000 in owed payment to city workers brings about new legislation

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Many argue that public worker unions reap too many benefits. However, the Athens city council may have just addressed an issue of non-union public workers earning the better end of the stick.

The city has decided to end an inconsistency between its payment of compensation to union city workers and non-union city workers. Thus far, non-union city workers have been allowed to let overtime compensation accumulate for years, while union workers’ compensation had to be paid out annually.

Sixty-five thousand dollars of city funds will have to be dedicated to the overtime compensation of non-union workers this year, according to city auditor Kathy Hecht. This money, Hecht said, could have been saved if the problem was caught earlier.

“It’s a lot of money,” Hecht said. “It’s $45,000 out of general funds and $20,000 out of other funds.”

The amount of time that the money was allowed to accumulate was not only factor in this now owed sum by the city. At-Large Rep. Chris Knisely explained the second factor:

“Over the years they’ve [non-union workers] gotten raises and when they get paid, if you wait until they actually leave or retire, then you’re paying out at the highest rate.”

The accumulation can be substantial on an individual basis.

“One payout is going to be about $17,000,” Hecht said.

The newly passed ordinance makes it so that non-union city workers have to be paid any accumulated compensation one year after it is earned. The legislation’s passage on Monday follows seven weeks and three readings by the council, according to Hecht.

When asked how these accruals were able to add up over the years without being noticed earlier, Hecht blames changes in the auditor’s office.

“I have a fairly new payroll administrator, and it’s just new eyes that realized that we weren’t doing these payouts for nonunion people, so she questioned it … we’ve been discussing it for several months now,” Hecht said.

For some, the payments have been a long time coming.

“We knew people had these accruals . . . we’re looking at someone who’s planning to retire and realizing that he’s going to get paid out for time that’s been on the books for a long time . . . I think that’s what brought it to our attention,” Hecht said.

Knisely and Hecht agreed that the newly passed ordinance will save the city money in the long run. Passage of the ordinance was unanimous.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Hecht stated.

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