CLERK & COMPTROLLER ELIMINATES STANDARD GOVERNMENT BENEFIT TO CUT COSTS
Office one of few local government agencies no longer offering
payouts for sick time
WEST PALM BEACH, FL (June 9, 2010) – Clerk Sharon Bock has eliminated a costly employee benefit to save tax dollars and help meet current and potential future budget shortfalls. The benefit—a payout for unused sick time when an employee leaves the organization—is standard at most local, state and federal government agencies. By no longer financially compensating employees for unused sick time, Bock expects to save an estimated $250,000 annually.
“Government agencies must adapt to changes in their environment. What worked for decades in terms of government benefits is simply not practical or fair to taxpayers, especially when so many agencies are struggling to continue providing basic services to residents.” Bock said. “We knew coming into this fiscal year that we could not sustain a non-essential benefit like this.”
After cutting operating and personnel expenses to the bone last year and expecting more budget cuts during the 2010 legislative session, Clerk Bock and her executive committee began exploring cost-reduction measures that could have a significant impact. What they saw was an opportunity to eliminate a costly expense. Having spent 25 years in the private sector before joining the clerk’s office, Bock was surprised to learn that sick leave payouts were a standard practice in government when she joined the office.
“Employees received checks for thousands of dollars for unused sick leave when they left the office. It is not fiscally responsible to carry an ever-growing financial liability like this from year to year,” Bock said.
Clerk Bock notified her employees last month that they would not be compensated for unused sick leave accumulated after May 8. To fulfill the existing obligation to employees, Bock offered a buyout of 25 to 50 percent of the value of their sick leave, depending on their years of service. Seventy-three percent of eligible employees took a full or partial buyout, resulting in an 89 percent reduction in the office’s payout obligation. This isn’t the first step taken to reduce the payout liability of sick leave. In 2008, the office capped the amount of sick time for which employees were eligible to be paid out.
“Changes like this are not only fiscally responsible, they’re essential due to the growing debate in Tallahassee and around the nation regarding the taxpayer costs for public employee benefits. I believe that other government agencies should consider doing the same thing,” Bock said.
After losing $7.1 million to budget cuts, including the loss of 109 jobs, since last year, Bock estimates that her office will have a $3.2 million budget gap to close during the fiscal year that starts on July 1.
Bock and her executive committee instituted a hiring freeze, renegotiated vendor contracts and reduced operating costs by 42 percent in order to eliminate the benefit going forward.
The Florida Constitution established the independent office of the Clerk & Comptroller as a public trustee, responsible for safeguarding public records and public funds. Clerk Sharon Bock is directly elected by and accountable to Palm Beach County residents. In addition to the roles of Clerk of the Circuit Court, County Recorder and Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners, the Clerk & Comptroller is the Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Auditor for Palm Beach County.
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