About half of Carroll County commissioner employees are performing what the county considers to be required work, and receiving credit toward time-off they can take in the future.
For every hour an employee performs essential, or “required” work as the county refers to it, they receive 1.5 hours of banked administrative leave. The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved this policy April 9.
“I think it’s just a matter of saying, thank you, to those folks that are required as they continue to be on the front lines here," then said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1.
The county has defined required work as services necessary for the life, health, and safety of county residents, according to Chris Winebrenner, county spokesperson. Of the county commissioners’ 656 employees, 346 fall under the required category, county documents provided by Winebrenner show. This number does not include governmental partners such as the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, whose employees are receiving banked admin leave under different parameters.
Some services are deemed “preferred” rather than required. Employees providing these services receive one hour of administrative leave for each hour worked, Winebrenner wrote in an email.
While some employees are not considered “required,” they are still providing critical services to businesses that are allowed to be open, preventing further negative impact on the economy, according to county administrator Roberta Windham, and so they are accruing banked admin leave.
Employees who are not able to telecommute and are not reporting to work are still being paid, according to Windham.
Employees that accrue admin leave during the state of emergency can use it as time off, the same as they would use their other accrued leave, Winebrenner said.
This banked admin leave does not expire, according to Windham. When employees do take time off, they’ll be expected to check with their supervisors as usual, to ensure many people are not absent during the same time period.
Public safety has the highest concentration of required employees, at 47 out of 51 employees, or 92%. Most of these people work in 911 services.
In the Department of Public Works, 202 out of 271 public works employees are required. Many of them work in utilities, road operations, and at the Northern Landfill.
Thirty out of 34 technology services employees are considered required, including those who work in security, a repair technician, and network manager.
Winebrenner noted many positions are only required for certain periods of time.
Payroll staff are working two to three days per pay period to process payroll.
Five crews in roads operations are each working one day per week.
Facilities staff were split into two groups, one working a week at a time then taking administrative leave the next week.
“Therefore, although the number of required positions may seem high, the actual time many employees spend performing a required function is only a fraction of the full workweek,” Winebrenner wrote in an email. “The additional banked leave will only apply to the hours worked performing a required function.”
Kim Frock, director of human resources, told the commissioners the cost to the county would come when people take the time off they accrued during the state of emergency.
Windham previously said the county could experience a loss in productivity when people collect on their administrative leave, or the county might have to pay employees overtime who work in place of the absent employees.
The value of admin leave accrued from April 2 to 15 was $1.1 million, Windham said. The value from March 19 to April 1 was $1.2 million, according to Winebrenner. This includes governmental partners such as the sheriff’s office, state’s attorney’s office, and circuit court employees.
The county has requested funding to compensate employees earning banked leave as hazard pay for four pay periods through the state’s coronavirus relief fund, established under the CARES Act, according to the county’s relief plan.
Some county employees have been asked to perform work outside of their normal duties. For example, staff who normally address comprehensive planning have handled non-emergency calls for the Department of Public Safety, Winebrenner said.
In other areas, employees are taking on more duties due to reduced staffing. For example, administrative coordinator duties are normally split between personnel, Winebrenner said, but now one coordinator may manage the duties of multiple coordinators.
Winebrenner noted the admin leave policy could change.
“This is a very fluid situation, and without a certain ending to the crisis, policies may be reviewed and adjusted at any time,” she wrote.
What are other counties doing?
Carroll County Breaking News
Roughly half of the counties in Maryland are offering some type of differential pay to certain employees working through the pandemic, according Natasha Mehu, legislative director for Maryland Association of Counties.
Generally speaking, Mehu said counties that have been hit harder by COVID-19 are providing some type of additional pay to essential employees. The way counties are going about this varies, she said.
In Howard County, the county executive issued an order to give one-time discretionary bonuses to county employees who are performing essential work. Full-time on-site personnel will receive $1,500 and employees who are intermittently on-site will receive $600. The executive order includes firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, 911 operators, public works personnel and emergency management personnel.
In Anne Arundel County, some employees are getting an extra $3 per hour. “Public facing” employees in the departments of health, social services, and aging and disabilities got this boost to mirror what state employees they work with are receiving, according to Chris Trumbauer, senior adviser to Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman.
As for administrative leave, some Anne Arundel County departments are allowing employees to work alternating weeks so they can practice social distancing, Trumbauer said. While those employees are off work, they receive admin leave, he said.
Baltimore Sun Media reporters Olivia Sanchez and Ana Faguy contributed to this story.