A hush of disappointment could be felt in the Sandoval County Commission chambers after a 4-to-1 vote repealed the short-lived two-day paid “spring break” holiday for county employees.
The spring break, which occurred on two particular days for all employees, was replaced with two paid holidays employees can take on whatever days they and their supervisors agree to.
Although each employee who spoke on the matter had good reasons for wanting to keep the holiday, in the end the commission voted to save money. Melissa Perez, Sandoval County spokeswoman, verified that the commission’s decision will save the county (i.e., taxpayers) $27,000.
Still, many county employees, who mentioned they haven’t received any wage increases in five years, feel that this repeal was a bad decision. We disagree and think the employees aren’t harmed.
Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald, who was the only commissioner to vote “no” on the item, said the paid holiday hadn’t been around long enough for anyone to really gauge if it worked for the employees or was financially viable for the county. However, in light of the county commission’s decision to remodel the detention center, finding ways to save money — especially on the part of the taxpayers — seems reasonable.
On the matter of the five years without raises, Perez said in an email that the county did a PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) pickup last year, which meant the employees now contribute less toward their retirement and the county makes up that difference. That means employees see more money in their paychecks.
Also, with two floating holidays, new employees will have access to this benefit right away. Beforehand, new county employees had to go through a yearlong probationary period before becoming eligible for the spring break.
The Observer understands the need for holiday leave as a part of employees’ benefits. We also agree with Commissioner Katherine Bruch, who made it a point of highlighting how employees in some private-sector workplaces have no choice but to work with floating holidays to keep those businesses running.
More kudos go out to County Manager Dianne Maes, who made the suggestion of creating floating holidays in lieu of paying for a county shutdown. This decision was prudent and still allows county employees to have their vacation time, even if they have to choose a different time of year to take it.
Another added bonus is that if employees cannot take off the days during a given year, they can roll those hours over to the next year or can take a payout.
So in the end, the county saves money and allows its employees to still have the same amount of paid time off. Do we really need to keep something going after we know it’s not viable, just for the sake of allowing more time?
The Observer agrees with the commission’s decision and applauds Maes for offering the alternative. It’s this kind of action that proves the leadership skills of Maes, who seems to have acclimated comfortably into her role as county manager.