Ohio spent $96M on unused paid time off in 2010-11

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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio paid about $96 million in 2010 and 2011 to retiring or resigning state employees to compensate them for unused paid time off, with five employees receiving more than $100,000, a newspaper reports.

State data shows the payouts were mainly for unused sick and vacation time and went to about 11,600 non-university employees, according to a review by The Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/GYVDsX).

About 350 employees received more than $40,000 each. But the bulk of the funds -- 80 percent of the total -- went to employees in payments of $30,000 or less.

The payouts are late-career incentives for hardworking employees who have jobs where it's difficult to take time off, such as prisons or health care centers, said Sally Meckling, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Civil Service Employee Association, which represents 30,000 workers. She said most of the workers receiving the highest payouts aren't members of the union.

"I don't think our members are getting rich off of these," she said. "But it can offset the cost of retirement for our folks."

The perk is called excessive and unfair by Kevin Holtsberry, executive director of the conservative Buckeye Institute think tank.

"It speaks to a funding issue, in a time when it's harder and harder to pay taxes to cover the cost of government. Why should one sector get something that almost no one else gets?" Holtsberry said. "To me, it's almost indefensible."

A 2011 survey by the Society of Human Resources found that 6 percent of employers paid leaving workers for unused sick time, 16 percent paid for unused vacation time and 17 percent paid them for unlabeled paid time off.

Government agencies often focus more on rewarding workers for their service, said Tracy Miller, a lecturer in the University of Dayton management and marketing department.

"They're not as profit-driven as your private industry," she said. "The bottom-line impact can be quite substantial from year to year."

A portion of the payouts can be attributed to a jump in the number of employees who left state jobs in 2011, 2,500 more than in 2010. Officials say that could be attributed to several reasons, including baby boomers reaching retirement age, turnover in the governor's office and concerns over legislative efforts to limit public employee compensation.

A law that would have limited public employee benefits, including unused leave payouts, and prohibited strikes, was repealed by voters in November.

"I think we had this perfect storm last year that made public employees look at their options," Meckling said. "So I'm not sure it's a problem that needs fixing."

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Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com