SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois taxpayers could find themselves on the hook for the hours that state education employees spent traveling.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports, an arbitrator has ruled that the State of Illinois owes comp time to more than 200 Department of Education employees, after the Illinois Federation of Teachers challenged a 2-year-old policy stating that department workers are not eligible for overtime pay if they are in transit in planes, trains or automobiles on their way to assignments.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports

The decision could mean days or weeks of paid time-off for hundreds of employees. Given that they are public employees, taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

The decision comes at a difficult financial time for the state and at an agency where a staff of 450 has been reduced by 40 percent in the past decade to save money. Meanwhile, school districts are many months behind in receiving state funding and are looking for more help from the agency.

The 2009 policy change was ordered by Donald Evans, the state board’s director of human resources and professional development. It ended the practice of giving employees compensatory time off for days when they worked overtime because of travel.

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