City Manager Kaplan Responds to DAR's Spaghetti-gate Misinformation
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to explain the City’s new vacation incentive program. After reading the Daily American Republic article titled “Spaghetti-Gate”, I felt I needed to respond to inform the public about the program and my rationale behind offering the program.
I am a member of Rotary and the idea of exchanging a purchased dinner ticket for a day off was born when I wanted to do two things: 1. Improve employee morale, which in turn increases productivity. 2. Help raise money for a local non-profit. Why is this important? I’ll give you two examples: 1. Some employees working for the street department worked for two days during the heavy snow days to clear the City streets. I wanted to find a way to give them a day off for their hard work during a crucial time for the City. 2. Some employees have not received a raise since 2012 and a vacation day is not a bad idea for these loyal employees (only City union employees received a half-percent raise last year). Past practice was to give the employees not covered by a union agreement the same raise as unions, but I discontinued that practice to save dollars (this saved the City $23,465.73 not giving the other employees the half-percent raise on salary alone).
By offering the day off in exchange for buying a ticket for the Rotary dinner, the immediate assumption made by the Daily American Republic was added costs. Their calculation was taking the total payroll of the City ($10,881,847.08 – Salary only) and dividing by 239 positions ($45,530.74 – Average pay of a City employee) and then dividing by 2080 hours worked per year (assuming everyone works an 8 hour day) to get the $21.89 per hour figure quoted in the paper. Then the paper took the $21.89 (average hourly pay of a City employee) and multiplied by 8 hours and then multiplied by 239 positions to get $41,853.68 of added costs.
Here is the error made by the Daily American Republic, their assumption of added costs is incorrect. The article assumes that somehow I have drained the City coffers for this vacation day. For the sake of argument, we’ll adopt the paper’s assumption that giving a vacation day offers nothing but negative consequences for management (and taxpayers). Instead, let’s focus on how much money spent.
Most municipal employees throughout the country receive compensated time off based on the number of years of service. So, if employee X receives one week of vacation in year one, then receives two weeks in year two, the City does not budget more money to cover the extra vacation. Why? Because there is not an added cost to paying for more time off. The employees’ pay is defined and set based on an annual or hourly wage. The wage for hourly and salaried employees alike are calculated on an annual schedule and paid over 52 weeks. So, bottom line, the vacation incentive program I offered does not add costs to the City. Furthermore, the City contacted over 10 different Missouri Cities (Cape Girardeau, Farmington, Kennett, St. Genevieve, Joplin, Wentzville, Columbia, Arnold, Hannibal and Sikeston to name a few) and the same is true for these cities: They do not budget an additional expense in lieu of more earned vacation time.
Past practice for the City was to offer a half-day of comp time if the employees attended the City’s annual Health Fair. This program was used to offer vacation incentives from 2002 to 2013. I have simply changed this incentive program for the one I have described. Why wasn’t this past program included in the scrutiny of the Daily American Republic? The answer is giving a vacation day does not reduce our level of cash per the explanation I have provided.