In a Special Meeting workshop of the Navasota City Council, Monday, Aug. 28, City Manager Jason Weeks presented four proposed new employee benefit policies designed to recruit and retain staff – Tuition Reimbursement, Paid Parental Leave, Certification Pay and the creation of a Catastrophic Leave Pool. Weeks advised all policies will be placed on a future agenda for a vote by council.
Tuition reimbursement will be available to full-time employees taking courses on their own time and require a grade of “C” or better or Pass in the case of a Pass/Fail grading system.
Per the policy recommendation, reimbursement rates will not exceed current Texas A&M University tuition and fee scheduled rates for Texas residents with employees eligible for reimbursement of up to 60% of eligible expenses annually, not to exceed $40,000 for the duration of their city employment.
While the proposed policy provides the opportunity to attain degrees from associate to master’s level and vocational certification, it includes a two-year service commitment to the City with repayment provisions in the event an employee leaves before the service commitment is fulfilled.
Responding to a question about advanced funding so employees don't have to pay out-of-pocket, Weeks said, “Tuition reimbursement is to assist an employee in getting further education. We want the employee to have buy-in from the very beginning. The employee is going to have to bear some responsibility for it.”
Since tuition reimbursement funds are not factored into the FY 2023-24 budget, the City Manager and department head will need to identify funding sources at the onset before approving an employee’s request.
Paid parental leave
According to Weeks, another perk for full-time employees which impacts productivity and employee morale is Paid Parental Leave (PPL). The PPL Policy will allow three weeks of paid leave for a mother or father following the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child under the age of 18 years, once per child, per 12-month period.
PPL runs concurrently with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), will not reduce leave balances and must be exhausted before payment of sick or vacation benefits is allowed.
Weeks said, “The only financial consequence is if, during that three weeks, additional overtime needs to be paid for other interim or temporary type services while that employee is out.”
A take-home of the Strategic Planning Sessions was the recommendation of a Certification Pay Policy to encourage employees to pursue advanced training related to their job duties and positions. According to Weeks, $51,626 has been allocated for this benefit in the FY 2023-24 budget.
The maximum pay for all certifications for non-public safety employees is $250 per month/$3,000 per year, and $300 per month/$3,600 per year for police and fire department staff.
In addition to certification pay, firefighters may receive special assignment or “step up” pay of $270.83 per month/$3,250 per year. This occurs when taking on supervisory responsibility for their shift when not having been promoted or permanently assigned as a Captain, Senior Firefighter or Lieutenant.
Catastrophic leave pool
The proposed Catastrophic Leave Pool Policy allows regular full-time employees to transfer unused sick time to a leave pool to be used by other eligible employees for illness or injury. Participation is voluntary and employees must contribute to the pool to access the benefit.
According to Human Resources Director Peggy Johnson, employees accrue a maximum of 960 hours of sick time, at which time accruals stop. The policy will allow employees with one year of continuous service to transfer from one day/eight hours up to five days/40 hours in each fiscal year at any time through Sept. 30, 2024, thereafter, during annual enrollment.
To be eligible, there must be a verifiable catastrophic illness or injury and the employee must have exhausted all accrued paid leave.
Following council’s questions about elective surgery and the uncomplicated delivery of a child not being considered a catastrophic illness or injury, both of which could result in complications, Weeks said staff will review with legal counsel before the final presentation.
Meetings can be viewed in their entirety at https://www.navasotatx.gov/government/city_council/agendas_minutes.php.