Commentary: Vacation Time - Use It Or Lose It

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, February 27, 2009

How’s this for a sweet deal? About a third of Sacramento county employees, including all the top managers, sheriff deputies and probation officers, can cash out their vacation time. Here’s how it works. After the employee racks up 400 hours – or 10 weeks, any additional time they earn, they get in cash. So, how much money are we talking about? For a typical sheriff’s deputy, more than $7 thousand dollars a year. Not bad.

Last year, Sacramento County shelled out more than $5 million dollars in vacation cash outs. The cost was even higher because that extra pay is counted when calculating pensions. Vacation cash outs boosted retirement costs by more than $2 million dollars.

While it lays off workers to bridge a $55 million dollar budget gap this year, the county continues to pay millions for vacations not taken. Sheriff John McGinness calls the policy absurd. It gives deputies a financial incentive not to take needed time off.

The county should get rid of this expensive boondoggle. Do what most other jurisdictions do. Cap vacations at some reasonable level. And once that cap is reached, employees either use it, or lose it.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.