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County may allow workers to donate time-off hours

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New Richmond, 54017
New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

St. Croix County employees who want to donate their unused paid time off to a co-worker whose infant son is receiving chemotherapy may soon get their wish.

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The county's Finance Committee voted last week to approve a PTO (paid time off) donation program to help employees who are on unpaid leave due to a life-threatening illness or injury. The policy will go to the full County Board for its action in March.

Co-workers have scheduled a series of fundraisers and are looking for other ways to help the family of jailer David Dykes. Both Dykes and his wife, Mindy Spencer Dykes, are spending much of their time at the hospital with their infant son Connor. An adult-fist-size malignant tumor was removed from Connor's brain in January, and he is now receiving chemotherapy. (For updates, go to www.caringbridge.org/ visit/connordykes)

Other county employees contacted County Board members last month, asking to be allowed to donate unused PTO.

Dykes exhausted his PTO last November when he took time off to help care for his 2-year-old daughter, who was ill and hospitalized, reported Supervisor Richard Marzolf.

"Due to extensive health issues in recent years, David and Mindy's family has fallen upon very difficult financial times, and I am writing this appeal -- to ask for your assistance," wrote Marzolf in a letter to Finance Committee members.

Marzolf said numerous county employees had offered to donate PTO, but there was no policy to allow them to do that. Finance Committee members discussed the proposal at their Feb. 8 meeting and again at their Feb. 22 meeting when they approved a draft policy to go to the County Board.

County Finance Director Michelle Pietrick said the proposed policy would allow fellow workers to donate unused PTO in minimum increments of two hours. Each employee could donate up to 12 hours a year.

Although requests for participation in the program will be confidential, PTO contributors will specify who may use their donation.

Pietrick said the transfers will be hour for hour. For example, if a higher-paid employee donated time to a lower-paid employee, the recipient would be paid only his regular hourly rate.

The program shouldn't cost the county more money than it would have paid anyway, said Pietrick. Departments budget 2,080 hours of pay annually for each full-time worker. That includes time-off pay. Each employee is allowed to accrue up to 320 hours, a bank that can be cashed out at retirement.

Here's how the program would work:

• To be a recipient, an employee must be in a permanent job, eligible for benefits and on unpaid leave due to a life-threatening illness of the employee, the employee's spouse or dependent child. A physician must certify that the illness is "life threatening." Explanations that a surgery or accident is "potentially life threatening" won't be accepted.

In the case of an ill family member, the application must explain why the employee's attendance is necessary to provide direct care. All leave benefits must have been exhausted.

• The Finance Committee will review and either approve or deny each application. Applications may be denied because the employee or event isn't eligible for the program, because the application is incomplete or if there is a pattern of leave abuse.

• Potential donors may donate to any eligible recipient. The identity of donors and number of hours donated will be kept private. Once given, hours will not be returned to the donating employee.

• A recipient may not receive more than 640 hours (16 weeks) of donated time during any calendar year. The limit will be prorated for part-time employees. Leave time earned by the recipient while using donated PTO will be used ahead of the donated hours.

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