Lake County Commissioners will be deciding before the end of the year the most equitable way to compensate county employees who work holidays.
Currently, employees receive credit for the holiday, like their colleagues, in addition to being paid time and a half for working. They do not receive credit for working toward overtime pay.
As a result, a county employee who does not work the holiday, but works six days during a holiday week, will take home the same pay as an employee who works six days including the holiday.
"It causes some hard feelings," Shelli Gust, commission administrative assistant, told commissioners.
Commissioner Deb Reinicke could understand this.
"If you're going to work that holiday, you should get a little benefit," she commented.
In introducing the matter, Gust indicated the Fair Labor Standards Act covers overtime compensation and presented four options which are equally acceptable under the law. The county could: (1) continue doing what it is doing; (2) count the hours toward overtime without providing holiday pay; (3) count the hours toward overtime, but provide less holiday compensation; or (4) count the hours toward overtime and give the current compensation for working the holiday.
She indicated the issue has been raised in the past, but the commission has not considered it recently. The only departments likely to be affected are the Sheriff's Office, Lake County Jail and 911 Communications. On occasion, should a snowstorm hit on Thanksgiving or Christmas, the Highway Department might be affected.
"Every once in a while, you have a situation with a person who works a holiday and one who doesn't walking away with the same pay," Gust said. She explained this happens because the departments are small.
"In a perfect world, you would be able to schedule your people so it wouldn't happen," she said.
Commission Chair Kelli Wollmann asked whether changing the policy to allow employees to receive both holiday pay and overtime would create a financial burden for the county.
"It only affects a couple people each holiday," Gust indicated.
As part of the discussion, Commissioner Dennis Slaughter asked for a definition of "holiday" and pointed out that as the county becomes more diverse, employees may have religious beliefs that designate holidays other than the Christian holidays currently recognized, such as Christmas. Gust indicated the holidays are listed in the employee handbook.
She said the handbook has not been reviewed since she began handling human resources for the county and that additional changes may be made in the future.
Commissioners opted to decide how to handle the issue of holiday pay at the second meeting in December since the change would not go into effect prior to Jan. 1.
In other business, the commissioners:
-- Reviewed the rental application from Feeding South Dakota for use of the 4-H grounds for the second Monday of every month. Gust reported speaking with Sheriff Tim Walburg, 4-H adviser Jen Hayford and Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Dave Hare, all of whom supported continuing the agreement.
Commissioners extended the three-month trial period but will review the agreement every three months to ensure it does not create any issues for the county.
-- Approved an agreement with First District Association of Local Governments to engage in multi-jurisdictional pre-disaster mitigation planning. Participation is mandatory to be eligible for future FEMA funds for hazard mitigation projects.
Gust reported the agreement enables First District to apply for a grant to cover the cost of the planning, which is expected to begin in September 2021.
-- Approved seven liquor license renewals. Auditor Paula Barrick reported that all taxes and license fees had been paid, and the sheriff had no issues with any of the businesses.
-- Acknowledged receiving an audit and engagement letter from the state Department of Legislative Audit. Auditor Maria Schwader reviewed the highlights of the six-page letter with commissioners and indicated she will return to review her findings when she has completed the audit.
Schwader noted the objective of the audit is to express an opinion about the county's basic financial statements.
"I've been looking at them. I haven't seen any problems," she reported.
She said that as they have done in the past, her office will assist in compiling notes to the financial statements. She will also be checking to ensure the county has effective internal controls and grants are administered properly.
"Another responsibility is to make sure there are controls in place to detect fraud or to prevent fraud," Schwader said. She then asked the commissioners if they were aware of any fraud and invited them to speak with her privately while she conducts the audit.
In closing, she noted that she has not found anything major thus far in the audit.