Clark County juvenile justice struggles to reduce comp time liability

Employees who have accrued thousands of hours of compensatory time have the Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice Services struggling to reduce what has become a costly liability.

As of April, juvenile justice employees were owed 25,400 hours of comp time, according to a report that Director John “Jack” Martin submitted to the Policy and Fiscal Affairs Board late last year during a public meeting. If the department were to pay out those hours at the overtime rate of $55 an hour, it would cost the department about $1.4 million, the report said.

“That was a worst-case scenario,” Martin said last week.

The department suspended the accrual of comp time until the figure is reduced to a manageable level, according to the report. As of early January, the department had reduced the April tally of comp time by 3,400 hours.

But Martin said last week the department didn’t actually suspend the accrual of comp time as the report said; it only began efforts to decrease the number of hours on the books. The department wants to reduce the long-term financial obligation on the county those hours represent.

“We are trying to keep kids safe by being good stewards,” he said. “It’s critically important that we maintain our staffing levels.”

The department employs 366 full-time workers and about 90 part-time workers. About some 360 of the employees are eligible for comp time and overtime.

The department, which runs the juvenile detention center and provides probation services, also operates Spring Mountain Youth Camp in Mount Charleston and Spring Mountain Residential Center. The accrued comp time hours reached its current level because of the need to keep secure facilities staffed appropriately at all times. Employees at times have to cover job vacancies and shifts for those who are on sick leave or annual leave.

For fiscal 2013-14, the department projects it will spend more than $700,000 in overtime. Overtime cost the department $760,587 in fiscal 2012-13, $455,690 in 2011-12 and $410,886 in 2010-11.

The department’s current estimate of employee comp time hours is about 22,000, Martin said. The estimated cost for that time is about $650,000 at the regular rate, not the overtime rate, according to county officials. The overtime rate for those hours is $1.2 million.

The goal is to bring those hours down by about 75 percent, said Dan Kulin, spokesman for Clark County.

But those hours change constantly, Martin said.

The department oversees more than 2,500 youths on any given day, according to Kulin. Maintaining staffing levels to protect the safety of youths in the agency’s care and the public sometimes requires staff overtime.

As part of the effort to limit comp time, employees are being encouraged to take pay as opposed to accruing comp time, Martin said.

It doesn’t help that the department has four vacancies. However, that number has gone down from 11 vacancies in November, which consisted of one detention manager, two supervisors, two juvenile probation officers and six juvenile detention assistants.

“Vacancies always play a role,” Martin said. “If you are not there, someone else has to fill in for you.”

The department has tentatively planned a Peace Officers’ Standards and Training academy for next month to be able to fill more vacant positions.

The vacancies are from people retiring in the department, Martin said.

The department’s staffing ratio is about one employee to eight youths or one employee to 10 youths, depending on what time of the day it is and what program or facility they are in.

No services have been affected from trying to reduce the comp time hours, officials said.

Two juveniles fled the Spring Mountain Youth Camp in Mount Charleston late last month, but that had nothing to do with staffing levels, Martin said. The facility is fully staffed.

“They were two kids (who) made a poor decision,” he said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (702) 383-0440, or yamaro@reviewjournal.com.