05/15/09 — Schools comply with 0.5 decrease

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Schools comply with 0.5 decrease

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 15, 2009 1:46 PM

Officials in Wayne County Public Schools are again responding to a request to help balance the state's budget -- this time by withholding money from teachers' checks.

Gov. Beverly Perdue last month signed Executive Order 11, implementing a "flexible furlough program" for all state employees. The measure stated that teachers and state employees' compensation would be reduced by "an annualized amount equivalent to 0.5 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year." In exchange, each employee will receive 10 hours of flexible time off.

Local officials have since worked to accomplish this in time for the district's next paycheck, which will be May 29.

Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for finance, explained the process.

"For 10-month employees in their May check -- and May is the only month I'm allowed to do it in -- it equates to a 1.07 day without pay, and that's how we'll treat it," she said. "Then for my 12-month employees here it requires me to take half of it in their May check and half of it in the June check. That means in their May check, I will take .64 of a day without pay and then in June (because the period is one day longer) I will take .65 of a day without pay."

Workers will not have to figure out how to record it, Mrs. Barwick said. The withdrawal will occur automatically through her office.

As for part-time and hourly workers, that is still being worked on, she added.

"Nobody else has to worry about this," she said. "We're handling this up here (in our office) because we can mass enter this time without pay and the system will automatically calculate it."

No one is immune, Mrs. Barwick said of the more than 3,100 employed by the district.

"All employees are affected regardless of the funding source," she said, referencing staff paid out of local funds rather than state money. "Our feeling was, because employees don't get to pick their funding source, it was more equitable to do everybody the same. The only one it doesn't affect is substitutes."

There is a bit of good news within all this, she noted.

"One thing that the governor has made sure of, if someone was to get longevity (a benefits package for employees of more than 10 years) paid to them in May or June, it would still be based on their full salary as if the reduction never took place," she said. "And for those people that might be retiring, their payout will not be affected as well."

Hopefully, this latest action will help the state balance its budget in time for the June 30 deadline. But that doesn't mean everyone impacted is happy about the sacrifice.

"We have heard grumblings about the whole issue," Mrs. Barwick said. "I think the biggest concern I have heard from a lot of people is no one had time to prepare. We had no inkling on this level that that announcement was going to be made.

"Our concern was that (the governor) made the announcement and it's immediate. She made it in April and it's effective in May."

While it might have been more palpable to hear about it in July or even on a quarterly basis, Mrs. Barwick said, the fact remains that it still involves giving up income teachers and staff have worked hard for.

"No one wanted to have their pay decreased, especially teachers getting out for the summer and only getting 10 checks, so there's two months without pay," she said.