09/10/12 — County still busy unraveling new payroll system glitches

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County still busy unraveling new payroll system glitches

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 10, 2012 1:46 PM

The somewhat bumpy July launch of Wayne County's new payroll system provided the fuel to turn three minutes of public comment into almost an hour-long debate.

Bob Jackson, a frequent speaker during the public comments portion of the Wayne County commissioners' meetings, last week sparked the discussion when he questioned the system's cost and the errors that led to overpayment or underpayment of some employees. He also asked who was accountable, and if the changeover had been made prematurely without the necessary testing.

Jackson, who did not identify himself as the chairman of the Wayne County Republican Party, was joined in grilling County Manager Lee Smith by Republican Commissioners Steve Keen and Ray Mayo.

However, Sheriff Carey Winders, who is also a Republican, agreed with Smith about the difficulty of figuring time for the fluctuating workweeks for law enforcement and emergency services.

Winders said he, too, had been in the private sector and that there is a "big difference" between 40-hour people in private business and those in law enforcement and emergency services.

"One thing I want to say about the payroll, Mr. Smith is working on that," Winders said. "I have looked at it. We have worked on it. I hope we will soon get it squared away. It does take time. It's like if you buy a new car from a dealership. I guarantee you might have to carry it back to the dealer at some point in time."

Jackson said he had heard a dollar figure indicating savings after the switch was made, but that, "the problems I hear are many."

"There have been questions that I think we would like to have answers to," Jackson said. "One of them being the cost of the system."

The new system through Ceridian cost about $200,000, Smith said.

Jackson said some employees had been underpaid, while others were overpaid -- including one by thousands of dollars. He asked if the county had run the new system in parallel with the old one before the switchover.

"As far as running a parallel system, you cannot run a dual payroll system you could not do that," Smith said.

Jackson said he had heard of county employees with automatic payments coming out of their checking account that were not honored by the bank because the person's pay was incorrect.

If any payments were missed, Ceridian is taking care of any penalty or interest, Smith said.

"However, we are not seeing any of that yet," Smith said in response to questions by Keen.

One advantage to the new system is being able to issue checks if there is a problem with payroll, Smith said. In the past, it could take up to 10 days to issue a new check. Now it can be done in just a matter of hours, he said.

Smith agreed there had been problems and that looking back he would probably have waited until August to implement the plan. However, he said, it has been implemented and the county will work through the problems that have cropped up.

Smith said he had sent an email to all of the county's 1,100 full- and part-time employees asking that if they have payroll problems that they contact him personally.

"I received seven, seven, because most of the issues had already been corrected," he said. "You should remember a payroll system should be about accountability. We spend taxpayers' dollars and we would be absolutely shirking our responsibilities as community servants in using tax dollars if we did not account for every hour worked or not worked by out employees. This is a better system of keeping up with time."

One of the biggest problems in accounting for time is in the Office of Emergency Services where overtime and fluctuating workweeks are difficult to calculate, just as it is in the Sheriff's Office, Smith said. That overtime is governed by state and federal regulations, he added.

Another problem appears to have been accounting errors where employees did not enter their time correctly or supervisors incorrectly accounted for the time.

"These computers that we have are a tool," Smith said. "In some cases we found Ceridian was wrong because we gave them the wrong inputs."

Time clocks have been turned off for the next 30 days to ensure supervisors are keeping track of employees' time, Smith said.

Mayo said his concern was that the county should have been able to train the supervisors on accounting for the time, while doing a dry run of the system.

"We have been able to do that in our small business," he said. "We should have been able to do a dry run of this to eliminate any issues presented to you."

The county did run tests in May and June, Smith said.

"It came back, and it was fairly good," he said.