Retiring county employees take $316K in payouts

LISBON – A total of $316,559 in unused sick and vacation days were paid to 23 employees from various county agencies who retired last year, according to figures provided by the Columbiana County Auditor’s Office.

The amounts ranged from $47,236 paid Jeff Miller, who retired as head of the adult probation department after 31 years, to $11.28 due Nancie Burbick upon her retirement from the county Board of Development Disabilities.

Miller and another 2012 retiree, juvenile court office employee Kathleen Mellott, were rehired by their bosses, but for less money.

Miller, who was earning $62,972 when he retired, returned with a reduced salary of $44,980 by Judge C. Ashley Pike in his capacity as administrative judge for Common Pleas Court. Mellott was rehired by Juvenile/Probate Court Thomas Baronzzi for $17.06 an hour compared to $16.56 an hour before she retired, but her work hours were cut from 80 to 56 hours per pay period.

The majority of the retirement expenses – $166,257 – went to people who work for county general fund offices, most of which are run by elected county officials, such as the sheriff, commissioners, prosecutor, coroner, clerk of courts, recorder, auditor and treasurer.

The remaining county offices are stand-alone, independent agencies governed by their own board of appointed members and funded with a combination of local, state and federal tax dollars. In contrast, the primary funding source for the county general fund offices is the two county sales taxes.

If you take out the high and low, the average payout in 2012 was $12,824. The year before, 21 retirees received payouts totalling $284,572, with the average payout being $12,221.

These payouts can often place a strain on the particular office’s budget, depending on the amount or the number of employees retiring during a calendar year and the department’s budget. For instance, the Department of Job and Family Services had four workers retire last year who were paid a combined $51,753 in unused sick and vacation pay. Although the JFS is within the general fund, the money to pay these retirements comes from state funds received by the agency.

The policy for these retirements vary among agencies. Workers at the county Mental Health and Recovery Services Board can get paid for up to 12 weeks in unused vacation time.

County general fund employees can accumulate up to 30 unused sick days and up to three years’ unused vacation days, which can total 15 weeks for workers with more than 30 years. General fund employees hired prior to 1996 are allowed to be paid for up to 120 days of unused sick time.

Elected officials receive no such benefits upon retirement.