08/13/12 — County switches how time is recorded

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County switches how time is recorded

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 13, 2012 1:46 PM

Wayne County's switch to a new computer-based payroll system has not been without heartburn.

However, with an annual payroll of approximately $36 million and 600 to 700 full-time and 200 to 300 part-time employees, the old system could be too weak in the area of accountability, County Manager Lee Smith told county commissioners at their recent session.

The recent changeover was "not perfect," but went relatively well, Smith said.

"We are actually going to an hour-for-hour and day-for-day system," Smith said. "What we did before, we kind of estimated what people worked. If we paid you on the 25th we were paying you through the end of the month so we were estimating the rest of the month. We don't do that any more. We are paying you like a company. It is easier to audit. More than anything, it is about accountability."

Supervisors are finding out that they have to look at their employees' hours on a regular basis, Smith said.

"Is that cumbersome?" he said. "I don't think so. I think that is appropriate. It is about accountability to tell taxpayers you are keeping up with hours which our people work."

The web-based program allows employees to clock in by phone, computer or even use biometric devices where a scanner reads a thumbprint. Employees can go online the day before payday to see what their check amount will be, he said.

Chairman John Bell asked Smith how the system would affect law enforcement officers. For example, an officer might be off duty, but become involved in a situation requiring the officer to act in an official capacity, Bell said.

All the officer would have to do is report the time to his or her supervisor who can then access the system to reflect the time, Smith said.

"It is a supervisor issue," Smith said. "We were doing that anyway on paper, but there was nothing official. In fact, my real concern was if the attorney and I needed to look at defending the county or the employee's safety, to know the record of hours, now you have exactly what is."

It also protects employees because they now have records of when they work, Smith said.

The system is now computer-based where it once was all on paper, and the goal is to have an automated system, allowing for remote access and more accurate records, he said.

"A lot of our employees want us to go to a bi-weekly pay system," Smith said. "This system will allow us to do that starting next year."

The old system was 20-30 years behind the times, he said.

Smith said the county started looking for a new system a couple of years ago.

Some employees were told as early as March about the pending change. Most were told in April.

Smith said in the end, the system will provide definitive records of employee work hours.

"Let's go to a case of someone comes in and says, 'Mr. Smith you underpaid me.' We will say, 'OK what do you base that on?' 'Well, my time sheet.' 'What is that based on?' 'At the end of the month I fill out this time sheet.' It is an honor system. I would hope that everybody would be honorable. However, if I have to go to the Labor Department if I have a labor dispute, I have no proof. At that point I can't prove or disprove. So that is one big issue, accountability."