County court scales back on number of holidays taken
Robin Y. Richardson
Oct. 2, 2013 at 10 p.m.
The Harrison County Commissioners court has scaled back on the number of holidays the county will be closed for business, unanimously approving a 14-day holiday schedule in place of the former 18-day one.
"The most common complaint I hear about local government is that the county closes too often," said Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor. "For years the county has taken far more holidays than other jurisdictions in this state. Further, hundreds of hours of accumulated time off appear on payroll reports and must be reported on the financial balance sheet as a future unfunded liability.
"Reducing closed holidays from 18 days to 14 days should build public confidence by opening for business more days each year," he said. "It also gives incentive for staff to take time off by using accrued hours of vacation, holidays or comp time; thereby reducing the future liability to taxpayers."
Taylor said the 2012 fiscal year audit reflects about $1.2 million in unpaid leave.
"Recent unaudited numbers show an unfunded liability approaching $1.5 million," he said. "I think it is past time that the commissioners court addresses these items."
Pct. 1 Commissioner William Hatfield agrees. Hatfield seconded the motion to approve the change, following the motion made by Pct. 3 Commissioner James Greer.
"My job is to get a dollar and 10 cents for every dollar that a taxpayer pays, and I just felt like it would be in the best interest of the public for us to be opened those four days and try to be a better service for the people that live in Harrison County," said Hatfield.
"The reason we took a look at it is it's an inconvenience for the public to come up there, try to pay their taxes, renew their license plate, try to get some work done in the land office and it shut the courts down," said Hatfield.
"And, some of those cases (on the court dockets) need to be tried in a convenient manner," he added.
Hatfield said the commissioners court reviewed the holiday schedules of 159 of the state's 254 counties and compared it to Harrison's.
"Of 159 counties that reported to us, we (assessed) an average number of days they were off and it seemed like Harrison County had the most," he said.
For some, it was a dramatic difference compared to the county's 18-holiday schedule.
"We found some counties don't have but nine," said Hatfield.
"I wanted to do it as a convenience to the taxpayers," he said of changing the schedule. "I'm doing all I can to see we get most out of every dollar that a person has to pay in Texas."
Under the new holiday schedule, the county will no longer take a second day off, Jan. 2, for the New Year's holiday. Additionally, the county will also be open for business on San Jacinto Day, Juneteenth (June 19), and Linden B. Johnson Day.
According to the new 14-holiday schedule, the county will only be closed for business on: Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, two days for Thanksgiving (Nov. 28 and Nov. 28), Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day, Texas Independence Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.
Hatfield said in examining the schedule, members of the court wanted to make sure that they especially approved a schedule that wouldn't affect the business of the county's tax offices.
"We have Waskom, Hallsville and the main courthouse that collects taxes," said Hatfield.
The commissioner praised the court's administrative assistant, Judy Jordan, on a job well done in soliciting holiday schedules from the other counties for review.
Judge Taylor said despite the reduction in the county holiday schedule, county employees still have several of other time-off benefits to enjoy.
"We still have 14 (holidays), plus two flex days, 10 paid sick days and 10 paid vacation days, so there's ample time," he said.
To view the newly approved county holiday schedule for the 2013-2014 year, visit the county's website, www.co.harrison.tx.us.