Bill clears way for more vacation time for classified staff

9:18:07 AM CDT - Thursday, May 25, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

The Kansas Legislature has cleared the way for the Board of Regents to grant more vacation time to classified employees.

Senate Bill 375, signed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius earlier this month, would allow classified employees at regents institutions to receive more vacation leave and discretionary days than other state workers. The bill states that the vacation and discretionary leave for classified staff at state universities can’t be more than that earned by unclassified staff at the institutions.

According to the bill, the Board of Regents can adopt a policy to allow the universities to increase vacation time, with the amount of leave being determined by the president or chancellor of each university.

The regents would consider adopting the policy if one of the six institutions brings a proposal to the board, said regents spokesman Kip Peterson, who consulted with regents lawyer Mary Prewitt when asked about the process. It would more than likely be studied first by either the business officers from the universities or the Council of Presidents, comprising the presidents and chancellors of each university, he said.

At WSU, unclassified professionals earn 176 hours of vacation time annually. Classified employees earn vacation time based on the number of years they’ve worked for the state of Kansas, with increases earned every five years. For example, those who have worked for the state of Kansas less than five years earn 96.2 hours annually, while those who have worked for more than 15 years earn 169 hours a year.

Because the bill was just recently signed, WSU officials haven't had time to start discussing the bill as they sort through all the issues that result at the end of a legislative session, according to Mike Turner, director of human resources.

But the issue has been previously discussed at WSU. A proposal that would have allowed WSU classified staff to opt out of state civil service, as allowed under another legislative bill, had called for increasing vacation time and providing merit increases if money was available. That proposal was dropped after a ruling by the Board of Regents, issued by Prewitt earlier this spring, said that bill was intended to provide only alternative salary compensation plans, not increase benefits such as leave, for classified university employees.

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