06/12/09 — Officials to watch for pay concerns

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Officials to watch for pay concerns

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 12, 2009 1:46 PM

A new software system has already given a local jail administrator headaches, and she wonders if state-ordered furloughs might make those problems worse.

But the State Controller's Office, which is in charge of the BEACON system, says the problems have been hammered out and the system is ready.

Laura Price, Wayne Correctional Center on Stevens Mill Road just outside of Goldsboro, said the state's system, which stands for Building Enterprise Access for North Carolina's Core Operation Needs, has caused her problems.

"I'm sure you may have heard that there have been a number of complaints about it," Ms. Price said. "We've had a lot of issues, and the problem for the correction officers is we're so short-staffed, that we're having to work a lot of overtime."

Ms. Price thinks that entering the overtime might cause problems when mixed with a new code for state-ordered furloughs, which is unpaid time off.

Gov. Bev Perdue has ordered the unpaid work holidays for many state workers, including teachers, now estimated in the range of $4.6 billion.

In case the BEACON system fails to accurately keep track of overtime and furlough time, Ms. Price said she will keep a separate list to compare to the computer records.

Sherri Johnson, communications director for State Controller David McCoy, said there were initial complaints about the system.

However, the system has already handled pay reductions in May and June paychecks for state employees, Ms. Johnson said.

"That went off without a hitch," the communications director said.

Also, after investigating many of the early complaints about the system, the State Controller's office found many state offices were "misinterpreting" policies about pay and overtime.

Before implementation of the BEACON system, many of those offices were submitting handwritten records for employee time, Ms. Johnson said.

"Some of these (state) agencies were interpreting these policies different, and the system will not let you do it wrong," Ms. Johnson said. "Some of the agencies were doing it right, and some were not."

The communications director said the computerization is a dramatic improvement over the handwritten records of years' past.

"What this does, for the first time, there is a record in state government of people who are paid, and what their benefits are, and what their leave and comp time is, and that's never really happened before," Ms. Johnson said.

In the meantime, Ms. Price will maintain her own separate spreadsheet in case furlough and overtime pay become problems.

The communications director said if anything does go awry, local jail administrators like Ms. Price should feel confident that things will be fixed.

"The reassuring part of all of this, is that if something is wrong, it will be handled, and it will be made right," Ms. Johnson said.