Certified employees, such as teachers, in the Liberty County School System will transition from being paid once a month to twice a month starting in January.
The Board of Education approved the change by a 4-2 vote, with board members Carol Guyett and Marcia Anderson opposed, during its regular meeting April 14.
The district recently surveyed certified employees, asking whether they would prefer to be paid monthly or twice a month. Of the 605 employees who responded, 54.2 percent chose once a month and 45.8 percent chose twice a month.
“There is only an 8 (percentage) point difference, but we had 46 percent who said they rather have it twice a month,” School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee told the board. “In my opinion, 54 percent are not going to lose anything. If it’s going to help 46 percent of the respondents, then let’s do it.”
Currently, while certified employees are paid monthly, classified employees — support positions such as school nurses and secretaries — are paid twice a month.
That means the district’s payroll staff has to process three payroll periods every month, said Roger Reese, the school system’s chief financial officer.
Reese said it is more efficient for the payroll staff to process two payroll periods instead of three. Currently, one full-time person and one half-time person work on payroll. The idea, he said, is for one person to process all the payroll twice a month. This would allow the extra employee to be used in other areas that require more oversight, Reese said.
For example, Lee mentioned that the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” is requiring more succinct and ongoing reporting on employees. Because of this, the finance department will need to use existing personnel to focus on accurately reporting employees to avoid paying penalties.
However, some board members disagreed with switching all employees to twice-monthly. Board member Carol Guyett expressed concerns over employees who have structured their bills to be paid on a monthly basis and whether they would have enough money when those bills arrive.
“We asked our teachers what they wanted. There is so much that we tell teachers and staff that they have to do that they can’t have a say in,” board member Marcia Anderson said. “They chose. It may not be an overwhelming majority, but it is a majority, and I certainly do not want to tell teachers that we will not honor what they asked for. It’s not something we have to do; it’s their choice. It’s their payroll, not ours, and I feel like we should go by what they have spoken.”
Anderson asked Reese if the school district would have to “float” the payment for mid-month from the general fund. Reese responded that it will be a one-time charge during the first month when the change is made.
The new twice-monthly payroll for all school-system staff will go into effect Jan. 15.