11:01 PM PST on Friday, November 12, 2010

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino County supervisors will consider a policy Tuesday to cap the amount of vacation time the county’s non-union employees can accrue.

The proposal is aimed at reducing a practice that has resulted in some employees racking up hundreds of hours of vacation, holiday or administrative time. Those unpaid benefits amount to a budgetary liability of about $8 million that the county would have to pay if the employees left, county spokesman David Wert said.

“It’s a large number that is constantly hanging over the county’s head,” he said.

The change would save about $1.7 million a year, a report to the supervisors states.

The policy only applies to about 550 employees who are referred to as exempt because they are not represented by unions and can be fired at any time.

County employees represented by unions already have limits on how much vacation time they can build up. But exempt employees, who include staff for county supervisors, top administrators, managers and their secretaries, face no limits.

According to a county human resources memo, a 30-year county employee can accrue up to 4,280 hours of vacation time.

Supervisor Neil Derry, who asked for the policy last year, said allowing for unlimited accumulation of vacation time is unreasonable and amounts to a “slush fund” for such employees.

Some employees have accrued as much as 1,000 hours of vacation time, Derry said.

The proposal puts exempt employees in line with limits imposed on the majority of county employees, he said.

“I think it will put us more in line with the private sector and create more predictability in our budget as we move forward,” he said.

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