News & Press: Newswire

Civil Service Task Force Making Headway

Wednesday, September 11, 2019  

As you may know, ASBO created a Civil Service Task Force several months ago to examine New York State Civil Service Law and Local Civil Service Rules; and the manner in which different Civil Service Commissions and County Personnel Officers administer law, rules and policies; and more importantly to work collaboratively with the Municipal Services Division of the New York State Department of Civil Service (DCS) to identify solutions and alternatives that would benefit school districts and local civil service agencies alike.

A sub-committee of the Task Force recently met with three key players of the Municipal Services Division from DCS and engaged in a collaborative and problem-solving discussion. We wanted to update the membership on that discussion; short-term and long-term goals; and some immediate steps our members can take to address civil service issues.

The broad strokes discussion centered around relationship building. We agreed that it is critical that school districts work hard to foster positive working relationships with their Civil Service Commission or Personnel Officer. Reaching out to them to discuss goals, clarify needs, collaboratively problem solve, gain knowledge regarding Civil Service Rules, policies and procedures, will foster positive working relationships. These relationships will allow open and honest discussion about goals and how to accomplish those goals regarding recruitment and hiring for classified positions within your jurisdiction. 

More specifically, understanding specific laws, rules and policies and procedures, and how you can use them to your advantage, was also something we discussed at length. 

  1. Residency Issues: Each Local Personnel Officer/Civil Service Commission, has the ability and authority pursuant to their civil service rules to determine the residency requirement for applicants who need to take a civil service examination for their position (competitive class positions). Local civil service rules also generally provide the Personnel Officer/Civil Service Commission with the discretion to waive residency requirements altogether or broaden the geographical area from which applicants can be approved, such as to contiguous counties. If you are having difficulty recruiting for a specific title that has a residency restriction, take the opportunity to review this with your Personnel Officer/Civil Service Commission prior to the examination announcement being published. Providing detailed information regarding recruitment attempts, advertising, declinations (for competitive titles), and providing suggestions for expanded residency requirements, may provide a greater candidate pool and quality candidates. 

  2. For competitive titles, there is nothing in New York State law or regulation that requires you to request that a list be canvassed. You simply can request that the appointing authority certify an eligible list without conducting a canvass.  This could significantly decrease the amount of time you wait for a certification from the eligible list. The possible downside this approach could be that the individuals certified to you may not be interested in working for your particular school district, and you may experience declinations when/if you invite them for an interview. These declinations should be documented in writing and provided to the local civil service agency when the certification of eligible is returned to them.

  3. For certain titles, such as Account Clerk, Clerk, Clerk/Typist, you can request that your Personnel Officer/Commission conduct the examinations on a continuous recruitment basis.  This method of testing allows for names to be continuously interfiled to the eligible list and therefore an eligible list will always be available to you from which to make appointments. This should assist in decreasing the utilization of provisional appointments and the potential of training an employee who is unable to pass the test or be reachable. 

  4. For competitive titles with no current list, exams are required to be requested by the Personnel Officer/Commission within one (1) month of the provisional appointment. Effectively communicating with your Personnel Officer/Commission to request that this provision be adhered to; emphasizing that you will be expending time, money and resources on training the provisional hire, is suggested. Anticipating vacancies, rather than reacting to vacancies as they occur will also assist in ensuring that eligible lists are available to you from which to make appointments.

One of the more pressing needs for our members involved providing flexibility to have one employee appointed to two different Civil Service titles. For example, if you have a Bus Driver and would like to use them as a School Monitor in between bus runs, you are either precluded from doing so; or have to seek approval to create a hybrid title that encompasses all job duties. 

I am happy to report that we have secured at least one County Civil Service Commission and member school district to test a pilot rule change that would allow one person to occupy two different civil service titles at the same time. This will be a very time intensive pilot; and will involve drafting a rule change; public comment periods; State approval of the rule change; and administering the change to examine the pros and cons for appointing authorities, including but not limited to school districts, counties, villages, and towns. We will be working collaboratively with the Municipal Services Division at DCS who graciously agreed to work with us on this pilot rule change. 

Finally, we have reached out to the New York State Association of Personnel & Civil Service Officers, and will be discussing ways to directly collaborate with them in an effort to build relationships to foster long term and short term positive enhancements to the administration of the current County rules and regulations. 

The work of the Task Force, as you can see, has been moving along in a productive manner. We are confident that all of our hard work and efforts will foster positive change for our members across the state. 

If you have a positive working relationship with your Civil Service Commission or Personnel Officer, and would like to participate in the pilot initiative to allow one person to occupy two different civil service titles at the same time, please contact me at mborges@asbonewyork.org.