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Future of drug court employees uncertain as transfer to state continues

Future of drug court employees uncertain as transfer to state continues

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The Central Nebraska Drug Court is being brought under the jurisdiction of the Nebraska Probation Office.

Current CNDC employees will have the option of remaining under Hall County or becoming state employees.

The two entities are negotiating how benefits will be offered.

“The state is working on what that will look like, in order to offer them a package to transition over to the state,” Assistant Hall County Attorney Sarah Carstensen explained at Tuesday’s meeting of the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

CNDC serves Adams, Buffalo, Hall, Kearney and Phelps counties, and is administered by the district courts of the Ninth and 10th Judicial Districts.

Currently, the employees of the CNDC are Hall County employees.

The three counties contribute to the court’s budget. Hall County pays the employees, and the cost is reimbursed through each county’s contribution.

Drug court budgets are all supplemented by the state of Nebraska.

An issue being discussed is how accrued vacation and sick time will be handled.

“The request has been, would the member counties of the (CNDC) contribute funds sufficient to cover the accrued vacation balances?” Carstensen said. “And would the member counties cover 25% of the accrued sick leave balances, as of this point?”

The state and county have different plans, Carstensen explained.

“The state only pays out 25%, but they allow you to accrue up to 1,440 hours, whereas the county’s policy is we only allow 720 hour accruals and on retirement they pay out 50%,” she said. “It works out to be, in essence, the same value.”

It is also currently uncertain whether CNDC employees want to transition.

“I don’t want to spend too much time or effort exploring these problems if the general feel is, ‘I’d like to stay a county employee,’” Carstensen said. “If they want us to explore this to evaluate whether they want to be a county or state employee, I’m happy to do it.”

Buffalo County Deputy Attorney Mike Mefferd, who serves as the CNDC board chairman, said the board is engaging in those discussions with the employees.

“We anticipate that the employees are going to desire to maintain their county employee status under the same general terms and conditions they’ve been currently functioning under,” he told Hall County commissioners.

Commission Chair Pam Lancaster advocated for waiting for more information from CNDC before proceeding.

“We would be well-served to have the drug court come to us with more information regarding the desires of the employees prior to us making a decision or going through that same process,” she said.

Other discussions would have to be handled in executive session, Lancaster said.

“I don’t think we negotiate in public, whether it’s with the state or anybody else,” she said. “At that point, the state can put forth a proposal and the county can respond. I would choose that the state put forth its proposal first.”

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