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Payroll problems prompt changes

-- Homer Beanfang (, February 16, 2000


Payroll problems prompt changes


Chronicle Staff Writer

COLUMBIA  Concerns among school employees about late W-2 forms and confusing payroll stubs led the board of education and Superintendent Virginia Rebar to meet with school union leaders Monday night.

The board has decided to outsource payroll and hire an independent auditor and consultant as it tries to straighten out the schools financial issues. Accurate W-2 forms, which should have been distributed by the end of January and are needed for school employees to file their income tax returns, are still lacking.

Over 50 audience members, most of them school employees and their families, packed the Horace W. Porter School library to hear the proceedings. Officials from the local and state unions representing teachers and other staff sat at the table with the board.

Janet Stice, president of the Columbia Teachers Association, spoke first.

In the past, the teachers got their W-2 forms with their last January paycheck. However, this January the central office was in crisis, she said, referring to the sudden departure of the bookkeeper and the schools failure to have financial records available in time for the annual audit.

On February 3, W-2 forms were distributed, but they contained gross inaccuracies and errors. There were new deduction categories, time inaccuracies and inaccurate gross pay, Stice continued. The administration showed reckless disregard of responsibilities and the board of education has failed in its responsibility to employees.

Stice recommend that the board make order out of chaos by hiring an independent auditor to straighten out the financial records, immediately outsource payroll and hold the superintendent responsible for negligent administration.

James Parker, local president of the Association For State, County and Municipal Employees, said the other school employees had similar problems. At this juncture, the employees trust in the administration is gone, he said.

Some employees faced further difficulties when direct deposits to their credit union were disrupted in January.

The credit union automatically deducts payments from accounts to pay bills by check, Stice said. Those checks bounced. The school should pay the penalties and explain to the credit union that employees had no control over the matter.

Board of education Chairman Carmen Vance said the school plans to outsource payroll to ADP, but that first the school needs to go through the payroll until we are sure the data is right. We have hired an independent auditor to audit the payroll to get the W-2 forms right, but were not sure when that will be finished.

Consultants will also come to the school, Vance said, to make recommendations to the board as to financial record procedures and accounts.

She also said that Rebar will inform the Internal Revenue Service of the problems and try to get an income tax filing extension for school employees.

After the meeting, Parker said he was satisfied at this juncture but that the union will not give up legal rights to pursue any losses members might suffer as a result of the payroll problems, such as bank fines.

Teachers, however, were still frustrated because their personal finances are still in disarray and there is no way to tell when the problems will be resolved.

Nancy Spitco of the Connecticut Education Association said, I think the employees are looking for a timeline so they can get on with their financial lives.

-- Homer Beanfang (, February 16, 2000.

Thanks Homer! What's most interesting to me about this report is the complete absence of any information about the cause of the problem (except for a reference to a bookkeeper who departed in January). Have reports stopped asking WHY events are happening? Will it soon be WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE?

-- Carl Jenkins (, February 16, 2000.

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