Smith County officials praised a department head for reducing how much is spent on employee overtime as much as possible.

The Smith County Commissioners Court made the comments at a Tuesday meeting to Ross Worley, who runs the Juvenile Services Department.

The Commissioners Court approved spending $70,000 in the upcoming fiscal year on overtime for juvenile detention officers.

Those are the staff who monitor juvenile residents being held awaiting their trials or who are in the juvenile restorative justice program called HOPE Academy.

The overtime pay is intended to replace compensatory pay, which officers build up when they work longer hours than planned.

Worley said Tuesday that officers have racked up compensatory time since he began his job. At the time, the department wrote checks every week to pay out that time.

Over the years, he said it has been common for there to be between 3,000 and 4,000 hours of compensatory time on the books at any given moment.

Worley said the problem with having all that time is it becomes difficult to allow officers to take their vacation, and they risk losing that time if they don’t take it.

“It has always been a challenge … not to let comp checks to go out,” Worley said. “It’s a constant juggling act. We have struggled with this for year after year after year.”

When he came to the department, he said there were 13 officers in the department. He said he has increased that number to 26.

This year, in order to move away from the compensatory time model, he said he was able to decrease the time on the books from 3,600 to under 75 hours in a six-month period.

One way of doing that was to have probation officers substitute for detention officers, something he said can be done with juveniles, but not with adults.

Members of the Commissioners Court commended him.

“That’s amazing that you were able to do that with (almost) 4,000 hours,” Phillips said. “Thank you very much, because you’re saving Smith County money doing what you’re doing.”

Commissioner JoAnn Hampton said: “I think you did an awesome job, and I really appreciate it.”

County Judge Nathaniel Moran also serves as the chairman of the Juvenile Board, which has operational responsibility over the department. The Commissioners Court only has a funding responsibility.

Moran said he told Worley when the process started that he would have to prove to the Commissioners Court that the overtime could be managed well. He said Worley agreed.

“He proved it,” Phillips said.

Moran also praised the operations of the Juvenile Services Department.

“Our Juvenile Services are of the highest quality, not just in the community, but in the state,” he said.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

Government Reporter

Erin came to Tyler from Vermont, where she worked for VTDigger.org and previously the Rutland Herald. She received her B.A. in Economics and Spanish from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she also attended journalism school.

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