by Victor Lopez
ECTOR COUNTY -- County officials aren't denying the fact they are short on employees or that some current workers are owed comp time wages. What's concerning them right now, is paying them before the amount they're owed, gets any higher.
According to Pat Patton, Director of Human Resources in Ector County, "We're talking about a little over 2000 hours that have been accrued in all the different County departments, which is not a huge amount of time. The monetary value of that is about $32,000 just in salary."
When an employee earns an hour of comp time, they get either an hour and a half off or they are paid the rate for that amount of work.
Patton says the longer these hours stay on the books, the more the County will have to pay, when employees finally use them, "If they get that time earned on the books, let's say now, but they're not paid for another five years, it just continues to sit there on the books. Chances are they are going to get a salary increase and it makes that hour and a half more costly in the long run."
Now, County Commissioners have their work cut out for them, trying to find a way to pay the comp time from the County budget.
Ironically, the worker shortage does offer a positive solution, "Many departments have had vacancies for some time, so the salaries from October until now are still in the budget and they could utilize those funds to pay out the liability or comp time for the other employees."
Patton says the majority of those on the list have anywhere from one to twelve hours accrued. But Commissioners still want to remind department heads to keep an eye out, "The court has asked that individuals not be allowed to earn more than twenty hours at a time, unless there is a special project that is going on, and that needs to be authorized in advance. That way they have an idea of what their financial liability would be."
Commissioners voted to table the issue until next month, so they can have enough time to see if there is enough money within the departments to pay the comp time, without using money out of the general fund.