October 21, 2021

County employees offered comp time payout

Four Cortland County Health Department managers racked up more than 700 extra hours of work during the coronavirus pandemic. They were paid more than 26% of the $63,000 bonus paid to employees from the American Rescue Plan, show county data released under a Freedom of Information request.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Cortland County department heads and management employees took on more responsibility — leading to several dozen people accumulating more comp time than they could schedule to take off.

Using approximately $63,058 of federal American Rescue Plan funding, the county is allowing those 40 employees to cash in their compensatory time accumulated during the pandemic through June 15.

Payout by category

  • $43,352.5732: Public Health, including COVID testing, vaccine clinics, contact tracing
  • $9,167.5040: Accounting
  • $3,904.4807: Human Resources
  • $2,177.6565: Mental Health

$63,058.7833 — TOTAL

“This is across the board for the people that were not able to get paid additionally for time worked, such as management, which for some meant a seven-day-week job for several months,” said County Administrator Rob Corpora.

Employees who could use their comp time did when possible, but many people were not able to take vacation time due to the workload and their dedication to the community trying to keep everyone safe
during this pandemic, Corpora said.

The Cortland Standard requested, under the Freedom of Information Law, records indicating the allocation of the federal funds to county employees in lieu of comp time. The data did not identify the individuals who were paid or how much each received.

The four individuals from health administration earned more than 700 hours of comp time — resulting in a combined $26,081, or 41.3% of the total payout.

“The idea is not to reward them, but to pay them for the comp time that they accumulated during the pandemic if they choose to accept it,” Legislature Chairman Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton) said in July when the Finance and Administration Committee was first considering the proposal. “I think the public, at large, will support this. I think people will understand.”

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management states that compensatory time off may be approved in lieu of overtime pay to overtime-exempt workers whose base hourly pay is more than $24.32 an hour.

The amount of comp time accumulated for all the Cortland County department heads and management employees through June 15 totaled around 1,600 hours — about 40 40-hour weeks for a person.

Employees in the Information Technology Department had to reconfigure systems to accommodate 100 or more employees working from home while splitting shifts, so if there was a positive test it did not require quarantining an entire department, Corpora said.

One individual in the Employment and Training Department organized every Cortland County vaccination clinic, racking up more than 200 hours of comp time she didn’t have the chance to take.

“She coordinated all the volunteers — approximately 60 per clinic,” Corpora said. “There were sometimes three or four clinics per week — she was at 90% of them.”

County employees not only worked their regular jobs but also filled in as contact tracers, helpline support, additional sanitizing, working in the vaccination clinics, taking calls and scheduling residents to get their vaccine, Corpora said. They also contacted local businesses and school districts, aiding them in scheduling vaccines for their staff.

“It was all hands on deck during the pandemic and it hasn’t stopped yet,” Corpora said.