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Burnet County is done with overtime

Burnet County Commissioners Court, Feb. 14, 2023

Burnet County officials made a major change to the county’s payroll policy on Tuesday, Feb. 14, switching to compensatory time from overtime pay. County Judge James Oakley (left) and Commissioners Billy Wall and Joe Don Dockery voted for the change. Chief Deputy Alan Trevino (right) gave perspective on the challenges the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office faces with managing overtime. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Burnet County Commissioners Court switched from overtime pay to a compensatory time payroll policy for all county employees during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14. The decision was made in an effort to rein in overtime spending by the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office, which has struggled with understaffing and overtime budget overages in recent years.

The change will not go into effect until June and could be tweaked between now and then. The new policy will almost exclusively affect the Sheriff’s Office, which is the only county department that has a significant overtime budget and overages.

The Commissioners Court addressed the overtime problem during its last regular meeting on Jan. 27 when County Auditor Karin Smith told commissioners that Sheriff’s Office staff members were either over their allotted overtime budgets or nearly over them despite the county only being 38 percent through the 2022-23 fiscal year.

County officials have been discussing the overtime issue since at least July 2022, when they learned the BCSO was significantly over its overtime budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Commissioners unanimously approved the comp time policy in lieu of an overtime policy change. 

“We’re just trying to find out what’s causing the problem and find possible remedies,” County Judge James Oakley told DailyTrib.com after the meeting. “This is the first step being taken.”

A presentation from Burnet County Human Resources Director Sara Ann Luther laid out what the policy change would mean for the county. 

At its most basic level, law enforcement officers will start to accrue compensatory time rather than receive overtime pay once they exceed the 86 hours they are scheduled to work in a two-week period. By federal and state law, law enforcement officers can only carry 480 total hours of compensatory time, at which point, they must be paid for their overtime work, regardless of local policy. Those 480 hours come to roughly 11.6 weeks of work.

If an employee resigns or retires while still carrying compensatory time, the county must pay for those hours at the employee’s current rate of pay before the position can be filled. The Commissioners Court has the ability to pay out for compensatory hours at any time if it chooses.

As of Feb. 14, Burnet County was 38 percent through the 2022-23 fiscal year, but only 9 percent — $4,747.98 out of $52,311 — of the Sheriff’s Office overtime budget remained. Under the BCSO umbrella are dispatchers and jailers, who are far beyond their allotted overtime budgets. 

Dispatchers are at 122.62 percent of their budget, meaning that BCSO has spent $55,180.08 on overtime with only $45,000 budgeted for the entire year. Jailers are at 193.15 percent of their budget, or $57,945.44 out of $30,000.

“The overtime is something that we can get a grip on, but we have to be fully staffed to do that,” BCSO Chief Deputy Alan Trevino told DailyTrib.com.

Trevino explained that the Sheriff’s Office is still trying to hire more deputies, jailers, and dispatchers to meet growing demand. Understaffing leads to employees covering each other’s shifts, which then leads to more overtime on top of the typical overtime that law enforcement officers accumulate dealing with emergencies or unexpected extensions to their workday.

“The end game is making sure that we are fully staffed across the board,” Trevino said.

dakota@thepicayune.com

6 thoughts on “Burnet County is done with overtime

  1. I was wondering why I never see any Burnet Co positions on the job search sites online. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think I’ve seen any of the above mentioned positions anywhere except maybe the local newspapers (not too many people get newspapers anymore). Maybe advertise theses jobs a little further outside of Burnet County.
    I’m sure all this has already been discussed, but what the heck? I figured I’d put in my 2 cents.

  2. This has been festering for months if not years. It is now a gaping wound and will continue to grow.

    Hold people responsible!

  3. You can’t figure out what’s causing the problem? This is simple economics. We have known for years that we have a shortage of law enforcement officers. This is not a new issue. If anything, I would have expected this line item to have been inflated to the extreme, to allow for the worst.

    The county previously reported that the tax revenues are way up. And, of course, they will only increase with all of the new developments.

    The budget was apparently grossly under-estimated; someone did a poor job of budgeting. Budget is not the same thing as money in the bank, it is supposed to be an educated estimate based on previous years revenues/expenses along with estimated growth in revenues and expenses. If you don’t have enough budgeted for your water bill, do you do without?

    We seem to have funds for downtown art/sculptures, commissioner court raises, etc.

    What could be more important to our county’s residents than our safety with a full staff of law enforcement officers?

  4. “We’re just trying to find out what’s causing the problem and find possible remedies,” County Judge James Oakley told DailyTrib.com
    If you don’t already know them you might be in the wrong job…

    1. Your comment would indicate you have an interest in the topic. I would welcome a visit with you such that you might fully understand the issue and the impacts created. Cheap shots like yours posted are not beneficial to anyone.

      1. ..and you almost made a public comment fitting of the position you hold, right up to the last sentence when you had to drop below the line and prove the previous poster’s point.

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