Guilford County North Carolina was founded in 1771 and, taking into account all of those years of existence, County Manager Mike Halford is the best manager the county has ever had.

At least, that’s no doubt what current county employees think in light of the benefits they’ve received since Halford became county manager in January 2021. In the last two and a half years, Guilford County employees have seen brand new benefits, restored benefits that were lost after the financial crisis of 2008, more flexibility when it comes to time off, positions added to reduce workloads, new insurance benefits, across the board raises for everyone including well-paid directors, and more.

Halford has fought very hard for the county employees and he has also made it known that he wants to see more raises and more benefits for them in the future. For two budgets, a compliant Board of Commissioners has given Halford almost everything he’s asked for, but this June, the commissioners seem to have discovered that these things cost money and that you can’t have employees off work all the time.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2023-2024 – in addition to $6 million in county dollars to raise employee pay – contains some additional benefits that the commissioners have had plenty of questions about.

Halford and his staff want to add up to eight weeks of paid time off for caregiver leave, five days for bereavement leave, four additional hours of parental school leave and they also want to change – to the employees’ benefit – the way vacation days are accrued.  In addition, Halford is asking the board to triple the current $600 per year amount of tuition reimbursement employees get for continuing their education.

County employees already get time off for caregiver and bereavement leave due to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), however, staff wants those days off to be paid days rather than unpaid.

Commissioner Kay Cashion said upon seeing the request at the work session said, “This is the difference between business and government.”

She added, “I think we need some more time to discuss this. On each one of those items, I’d like to see comparisons of what others do. If you’re off three months, who’s gonna work? This gives them eight weeks paid time-off guaranteed.”

Cashion also said, “I’m just sitting here thinking about a department that has two or three people in the department – and you’ve got somebody taking off three months.”

“With all this other leave, I’m just wondering who will be working,” she added.

Cashion said that she had heard complaints from county employees who were annoyed at all the time others got to take off.

“I have received some comments, but some of the comments I have received from employees is, ‘What is going on? I’m not going to be taking children to school trips etc. I’m just going to be working double trying to keep up while they take the day off.’”

Other commissioners had plenty of tough questions as well for the manager and his staff regarding the subject.

Halford asked the commissioners if they wanted him to poll county employees to hear their views on the proposed benefits.

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said there was no need to do that.

“I guarantee you, if you survey employees, they will say, ‘Yeah, I’ll take that – I like that,” Alston said.

The commissioners have decided not to include the requests in the new budget, but they do plan to address the matter in July and perhaps make a decision one way or the other then.