You Paid For It: Temporary employees

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The City of Charleston often has more jobs than workers, and it turns to temporary employees to fill the gaps.

If you're looking for work, the City of Charleston always has the "Help Wanted" sign out. The city's website has dozens of job openings on a daily basis, but the city is using nearly that many temporary workers in any given month. The city spends about $125,000 a month on these temporary workers.

We have essential services we have to provide for our citizens and those are things that have to get done every day," Kay Cross, the City's Director of Human Resources explains.

Cross says temp workers are used every day for a variety of jobs throughout the city.

"A lot of times we use temps to fill positions for employees on FMLA leave, on vacation, or someone leaves kind of unexpectedly and we have a need to get someone in to help fill that gap," Cross says.

We looked at the City of Charleston's check registers for the first two months of 2018 and found the city spent more than $200,000 on temporary employees. Four categories accounted for most of that spending. The city paid $14,604.12 for stormwater operations, $16,422.14 for grounds maintenance, and $30,619.65 for garbage collection. The largest expense for temporary workers was $85, 635.59 for street sweeping.

Amy Wharton, the city's Chief Financial Officer says the city doesn't budget for temporary workers in most cases. These expenses come from the budgets of different city divisions. Wharton also says the city may save a little by using temps because they aren't paid benefits, but this isn't a cost-saving measure. It's such a small percentage of the city's overall budget.

"We had $120 million last year in 2017 that we spent in salaries and it was less than 1 percent (of the overall payroll)," Wharton says.

Why does the city turn to temps again and again for the same jobs?

"Sometimes employees do like to have the flexible schedule," Cross says. "Some people actually like working different assignments and working in different environments, but some of the positions are hard to fill."

The city is constantly advertising these jobs and temporary workers are encouraged to apply. Sometimes they go on to become full-time city employees.

Cross is one of those.

"I've been with the city 21 years and I started my career with the city as a temp," Cross says.

The goal of the Live 5 'You Paid For It' segment is to show and explain government spending and increase transparency for taxpayers. If you have an idea, email Tips@Live5News.com.

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