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Paso dismisses Grand Jury critique

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On May 1, Paso Robles provided the city’s official response to a San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury report that analyzed vacation accrual policies and practices in municipalities across SLO County.

The report was especially critical of Paso Robles for having an average 36 days of unused vacation time per employee—the highest rate in the county. City personnel rules should prevent employees from banking more than 2 1/2 times their yearly allotment, but the Grand Jury found that 40 percent of the city’s workforce exceeds that maximum and is technically able to cash out upon retirement, posing a threat to the city’s finances.

City Manager Jim App disagreed with the findings. Although his word choice was restrained, his tone was similar to that of a frustrated parent trying to be nice while explaining why his kid has no idea what he’s talking about.

As a manager, App can earn up to five weeks of paid vacation every year. Other employees start at two weeks per year and can earn up to four after prolonged service.

App said that big vacation payouts can provide transitional cash for retirees and the city leaves all positions vacant for at least three months to eat up the difference. He also noted that with a 15 percent reserve, the city could cover the vacation time even if all the staff cashed out at once.

The Grand Jury suggested that the city consider paying out over time, limiting the total amount that could be accumulated, or earmark reserves for the cost. App suggested that the city not pursue those options. City Council members agreed with his report.

“They suggested we review our practices, and that’s always a good idea,” App said.

The city hasn’t changed its vacation accrual rules since 1989.

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