City of DeKalb’s Liabilities for Compensated Absences

DeKalb’s whittling of its workforce to meet budgetary goals has not made much of a dent in the liability for compensated absences.

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FTEs are the numbers of city employees, expressed in full-time-equivalent positions. Please note FTEs are the budgeted numbers of employees, which may vary from the actual.

Compensated absences are long-term liabilities reflecting the total value of sick leave, vacation time and other accumulated paid leave.

Accrued payroll is all the compensation owed to employees as of June 30 (the last day of the fiscal year) but not yet paid.

The rises in accrued payroll seem consistent with end-of-year payouts accompanying burgeoning rafts of retirees and serial reductions of staff levels in recent years. The question is why the compensated absences liability isn’t shrinking more in response to these developments.

Off the top of my head, I’d look to the nature of layoffs for a couple of the factors (lower seniority equals less accumulated leave, plus you probably don’t automatically have to cash out as with terminations) and delayed effects of reductions for another (I expect to see more Voluntary Separation impacts in the FY2011 report). Also, the FTE numbers suggest that 19 layoffs do not necessarily result in a net loss of 19 workers.

Another possibility is that city employees’ leave is a) allowed to accumulate to very high amounts; b) gaining value due to raises; or c) both a and b.

DeKalb’s contracts and pay plans have historically been generous. Even in the years since 2008 — and despite the hoopla surrounding “sacrifices” — no regular city employee that I know of has ever had a pay reduction, and raises by and large have only been postponed, not canceled.

This means it’s time to pull my nose out of the financial reports and put it into these contracts to test hypotheses* — and perhaps return to you soon with tales of the legendary Comp Time Monster.

Source of table data: City of DeKalb Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs)

*Necessitated by a chronic deficit of straight answers, exemplified here.