County employees will want to note of at least six personnel policy changes Hopkins County Commissioners Court approved earlier in the week.
Adopted were amended, update or new policies regarding commercial driver’s license and certification pay, holiday and longevity pay, uniform budgets, health incentive programs, and mileage and traveling.
“There’s a number of changes, some are more substantial than others,” Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom said. “Kelly Kaslon has been working on this with Shannah Aulsbrook.”
Some of the changes apply to policies revised two years ago.
“We follow county policy as best we can to make sure everything stays organized within the county,” Newsom said.
“A lot of it’s already the same that already, there’s just one sentence that was changed,” said Hopkins County Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook.
License and Certification
This policy, approved previously, allows the county to pay for CDLs when a county employee is required to obtain one as part of their job, at the discretion of the various county departments.
“If the elected officials or department head chooses to pay for it, then it’s your discretion,” Aulsbrooks said.
Newsom and Kaslon have been working on updating this policy.
“We’re responsible for the taxpayers money on everything we say and do. One of things we’ve discovered, if I make a trip to Austin or I make a trip to Houston, I would get paid mileage by the county: 52 cents, whatever the federal amount is, by the mile. We have discovered I can rent a car from Enterprise, pay the rental and buy the gas and save,” said Newsom. “For instance, I made a trip to San Marcos this week that saved almost $200,” Newsom said.
Thus, elected officials and county employees who do not vehicles who have to travel quite a distance out of town for county business are encouraged to rent a car rather than drive their own as a cost savings measure, Newsom said.
Rental of an intermediate sized car at a minimum and up is recommended. The difference in vehicle size will only be $2-3 a day rental fee.
Those renting a car will not be paid in mileage for overnight, as the funding will go toward the rental fee, according to Kaslon.
“You can still take your personal vehicle. Should you take your personal vehicle, you will get what the Enterprise rate would have been, instead of all mileage, to save money,” Aulsbrook said.
“We need to encourages this because we can save. We need to do that in every area,” Newsom said.
In the past, when employees ceased working for the county before longevity pay was issued, it was prorated to them.
“We didn’t really realize that was what was being done. You should be here at the time longevity is being paid out. It’s a benefit. It’s not something we have to do. So that change is that it’s not going to be prorated when you leave. You need to be here at the time we’re paying them out,” Aulsbrook said.
Newsom noted longevity pay is typically paid in mid-November.
“Right, if you leave 6 months before we pay it out. We’re not going to calculate it out everything you would have got. You need to be here at the time it’s paid out,” Aulsbrook said.
“I thought it was that way already, and I think most of us did,” said Newsom.
The change to this policy puts into words how it’s factored into the county budget to pay first responders and others who fall under the 207 pay exemption.
“The problem is, first responders, the way the county’s got the holiday pay set up, work a different schedule than all the rest of the county employees. So, it’s very hard for them to figure out how to pay the first responders. They’re actually working when everybody else is off. They’re getting paid for different days. So it’d be easier for us to go ahead and pay the first responders throughout the year,” Hopkins County Sheriff Lewis Tatum noted.
“We’re all included. They’re on a 12-hour and they’re more than a 48-hour work week on their schedule, and I’m a 52-hour work week. So we’re entirely different than any other employee, the sheriff’s department and fire is. It’s much more easier on the pay roll and it’s much more fair across the line,” Endsley said.
The sheriff’s and fire department don’t close for the holidays, but continue to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Depending on shift scheduling, that means some employees in these departments work on the holidays, while others may be off.
“Before, people that are actually working the holiday, weren’t getting paid. It was a very weird deal the way it was, Kelly can tell you. This way will be so much easier for everyone,” Tatum said.
“This week, Thanksgiving is a holiday. At the fire station and sheriff’s office, it’s just another day. We’re already getting paid in each pay check,” Endsley said.
This policy pays all of those employees, with their holiday pay spread throughout the year, so all receive it. It means those who work holidays won’t be paid 1 1/2 time for holiday hours, which would have to be factored into department budgets. Kaslon explained.
“This way everybody’s getting paid for all the holidays whether they work or not,” Kaslon said.
“Just for clarity, you’re not talking any extra money?” asked Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker.
Endsley, Tatum and Aulsbrook affirm no additional funding is required in the budget to cover the fire and sheriff’s department budgets. Endsley pointed out that the county is actually saving a little bit of money as they will not have to pay overtime and/or holiday pay on top of regular pay.
Barker asked if someone not scheduled to work Thanksgiving Day has to be called in to work would have to be reimbursed extra for responding.
Endsley noted that pay would be regular over-time pay, if the hours put the first responder over their regular allotted hours.
The policies regarding the health incentive programs reflect policies passed in September and put into effect in October.
The county offers a few programs in additional to the health and education programs offered by the county Extension agents.
Programs include a smoking cessation program, annual physicals and gym memberships.
Newsom said not as many county employees have taken advantage of having the county pay for their memberships if they utilize the gym a specified number of times in a given month or recording period.
The idea is that going to the gym will help county employees be more fit, which in the long run should cost less in health insurance costs and mean people having to be off work less for illness or health issue, according to Newsom.
Added to the policy regarding uniforms furnished by the county is a requirement for individuals to be employed by the county for 90 days in order to receive a uniform allowance from the county.
Aulsbrook noted that one county commissioner had an employee who was given uniforms, then left within about a month. Another person had to be hired and new uniforms purchased for the new employee, additional cost in a uniform budget.
Newsom noted that does not apply to the fire department and sheriff’s office, as those individuals require protective clothing specific for their job.
The policy would apply to the other county department budgets such as those of commissioners and the Civic Center.
The Commissioners Court gave unanimous approval to the personnel policies as recommended at their regular meeting earlier this week.