In an ironic twist, McMinnville officials did not reach a determination in regard to longevity pay because the meeting ran out of time.
Finance Committee members were interrupted in mid-discussion when their meeting ran past the allotted time allowed — 20 minutes to discuss three items, one of which was longevity pay.
Before being cut short, Alderman Ken Smith made a recommendation to change the city’s longevity policy, a change he says will correct a “glitch” that requires employees to work past their anniversary date in order to receive that year’s longevity pay.
Longevity pay was created to reward employees who have provided continuous service to the city. What each employee receives is based on their anniversary date in the calendar year the pay is to be issued. Checks are issued between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15 yearly, at a rate of $100 per year of service, up to $3,000.
According to the policy, “to be eligible for longevity pay an employee must be considered a full-time, active employee at the time checks are distributed.”
Smith recommended adding the words “or an individual who retires in the year in which the longevity pay is distributed.”
When Smith previously brought the situation to the board’s attention, he was accused by Alderman Mike Neal of attempting to change the city policy for one employee — Greg Wanamaker, who decided to retire Oct. 31 and forfeit $2,900.
Neal was absent from Tuesday’s meeting. However, Smith says he and Neal worked together on the changes, with Neal removing the word “active.”
“Mike and I have discussed this on how are we going to come to an agreement,” said Smith. “This changes one part of a sentence. Mike removed the word ‘active.’”
Adding the sentence and removing the word would mean an employee who decides to retire on their anniversary date during the year would be eligible for a longevity check when they are distributed at the end of the year.
Alderman Billy Wood, although not on the committee, asked about the possibility of striking the word “continuous” from the policy.
“We have had employees who may have been with us four or five years and then they left,” he said. “When they reapplied, the city took them back immediately because they were good employees.”
As the policy is currently written, an employee is not eligible for longevity pay until after three years of service. If an employee leaves the city and returns, the clock begins again.
When asked to explain the initial intent of longevity pay by Mayor Jimmy Haley, city recorder Shirley Durham said the longevity pay is an incentive to keep employees from leaving their employment and was not intended for retirement.
Haley says the recommended change would cause another glitch in that an employee could get longevity pay in December and if their anniversary date is in January, they could elect to retire that month and still receive a check the following December without working that year.
It does not, says Smith.
“It comes back to anniversary date,” he said. “If they get paid in December for the previous January, what they are getting paid for is previous year.”
Giving employees their longevity pay when they retire could cause another glitch, says Haley.
“Let’s say their anniversary date is Jan. 1, 2014,” he said. “They get a longevity check on Dec. 15 for 29 years of service. They get $2,900. Then, they turn around on Jan. 1 the following year and retire. The way I read this, they will get a check for $3,000 on Jan. 1.”
The lengthy back-and-forth discussion continued until time ran out. With no decision reached, the measure will be heard by the full board during its next regular session.