STANFORD — Lincoln County sheriff's deputies have accrued thousands of hours of unused paid time off, but initial estimates of how much financial liability those hours pose to the county were probably too high.
At a fiscal-court meeting Oct. 24, officials estimated unpaid vacation hours could pose up to a $100,000 liability to the sheriff's budget if current deputies were to leave the department, requiring the sheriff to pay out unused time off.
An Interior Journal analysis of data provided by Judge-Executive Jim Adams’ office shows the county's potential liability for deputies' vacation time is probably around $58,000, including benefits.
But deputies have also accrued hundreds of hours of comp time and thousands of hours of sick time that further complicate calculating the total potential liability.
Deputies are owed approximately $21,400 in comp time including benefits, and they've also accrued 3,745 hours of sick time, according to a log of hours owed provided by Adams' office.
The vacation and comp time hours combine for a total potential liability of around $80,000.
Adams said accrued sick time isn't paid out directly when an employee leaves but still carries some potential cost because the unused time counts toward how much an employee gets for retirement.
Adams said he is already looking into changing how the county distributes time off with an eye toward personal days instead of sick days.
"Too many people take sick time as vacation time, and it's too hard to police," he said.
Adams said he and county magistrates plan to learn about options available to the county for new time-off policies during a fiscal-court meeting at 9 a.m. Nov. 7.
Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger has said his deputies will attempt to use a lot of their accrued vacation hours in the next year but that doing so is going to impact law-enforcement coverage in the county.
Such a reduction in coverage comes at a bad time, as crime and calls to the sheriff are on the rise, Folger said.
As for comp time earned by his deputies for working more than 40 hours per week, Folger said, "If we had more deputies, this would never occur."
"These guys don't want to work overtime," he said. "Who does?"