The Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners approved a recommendation from the county staff council to resolve a year-long dispute over how many paid holidays the county should observe.
Ever since President Joe Biden issued an executive order declaring June 19, June 13 a holiday, district commissioners have questioned the need for a thirteenth district holiday. “When is enough, enough?” asked Commissioner Mark Reichert at Monday’s meeting.
He said his constituents would not want their tax dollars paid for employees taking another day off. HR director Tony Schuler said voters usually come to the commissioners with other concerns and that another holiday would boost staff morale.
The holidays that the county currently observes are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after, and Christmas Day.
The compromise included the recognition of June 16 alongside 11 other public holidays. Arbor Day, in turn, would be turned into a floating holiday. Employees can release any day as an additional PTO day with the permission of their manager.
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This would free up more county employees to work during Arbor Day and help voters with anything they need assistance with. April is a big month for collecting property taxes, said Lisa Rien, county management accountant. Voters have extra time to pay them when county offices are open on Arbor Day.
The staff council also removed language that would require the county to comply with state law when it came to recognizing public holidays. If the federal and state governments recognize Christmas Eve as a public holiday, the plan for the district provides for this to be observed.
Schuler said staff were afraid the commissioners might take vacations. Commissioner Mark Harris said she and he in particular had always wanted 12.
Schuler responded by saying staff were concerned that commissioners were ignoring the staff council’s recommendations.
Commissioner Ken Meyer said the final decision on any board plan should be made by the commissioners, regardless of how the personnel committee votes.
“I don’t care what the volunteer committee is, we should have the final say on what’s going on,” he told Schuler.
However, he said the revised plan could improve morale in the county. The furlough debate and an ongoing review of payrolls for county employees could result in some leaving, Schuler pointed out.
“This is the worst morale I’ve seen in this county,” Meyer added.
Meyer is the commissioner’s representative on the staff council and said there were many compromises at the meeting to draft the plan.
Commissioner Charlie Knapper said he appreciated the compromise but was still reluctant to go on the 13 holiday. Employees, he said, are already getting 10-15 personal days off and 12 sick days. However, one member of the audience pointed out that employees rarely use all available sick days.
As chief executive of the village in Morrill, Schuler said his employees work harder when a vacation is coming up.
Ultimately, commissioners Meyer, Knapper and Russ Reisig voted in favor of the recommendation. Commissioners Reichert and Harris voted against, citing that they still only wanted 12 public holidays. “I was a 12-year-old guy… my mind hasn’t changed. I think that’s fair,” Harris said.
Meyer said the commissioners could still adjust the plan in the future if necessary.