Former Bellevue Police Chief John Stacey's quarter-million-dollar payout for unused vacation time is likely to be the last of its kind in that city.
Bellevue city employees are no longer allowed to bank unlimited vacation time, and Stacey is probably the last person to retire under the old policy with so much unused time.
Since capping vacation accrual about three years ago, Bellevue has halved the amount of money it owes employees in vacation time payouts.
In October 2009 employees who left were set to collect nearly $1.2 million by cashing out unused vacation.
Now the city has brought that number down to $680,000, and officials expect it to decrease further.
“It's not hard to see that it had become excessive,” City Councilwoman Carol Blood said. “It's something that didn't happen overnight so we didn't fix it overnight, but we continue to try to get this under control.”
The city had asked employees starting around 2010 to either use up their vacation or take a payout.
Now employees can accrue vacation hours only up to a certain level — 120 for civilian employees, 160 for police officers. Police command staff can build up 360 hours, though some of those officers currently have more than that.
“It's a basic, fundamental problem,” Bellevue Finance Director Richard Severson said. “People are given so much vacation that they can't use it within a year, and so it continues to build, and then when they leave, you have to pay that out in cash.”
Papillion made a similar move in 2011, though the city already had caps for some employees before that. In Papillion, employees can accumulate up to 288 vacation hours.
Most other municipalities in the metro area also have caps on vacation payouts.
Not all employees are happy about the Bellevue policy, Severson said.
But it encourages them to use vacation, which he said is a good thing.
“That's the purpose of vacation — to get away, to lower the stress level.”