10/07/12 — County responses to payroll questions

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County responses to payroll questions

By From staff reports
Published in News on October 7, 2012 1:50 AM

Wayne County Emergency Medical Services employee Donna Santifort last Tuesday submitted a two-page, 14-question letter to county commissioners concerning problems with the new payroll system.

Commissioners, who will meet in special session Monday to discuss the problems, promised responses to the questions.

Below are the questions and the county's responses, which were prepared by County Manager Lee Smith and the county Human Resources Department.

1. Question: We would like to make a request that our money or payroll be removed immediately from human resources' hands. It has no business there, especially our human resources' hands as they are a department that is unapproachable by EMS. Is anyone trained as an accountant in that department? We would like our payroll handed over to a trained accountant who would have the ability and training to unravel this mess that has occurred over the last three months and then remain in a finance or payroll department. It does not matter how you pay us, until the system is fixed it will continue to be broken.

Answer: Linda Tipton, who has an accounting degree, has been processing payroll for the county of Wayne for 15 years. She continues to do so. There are other individuals who play a role in the processing. Payroll is hours worked (submitted by department supervisors) times rate of pay (from the budget) minus deductions (those mandated and those elected by employees) equals net pay. These elements are reported to and funded by the finance department.

2. Question: We received an email from human resources stating that our 401(k)'s, Aflac, etc. were in good standing and had been paid when in fact we received notice that they were not paid for July or August, but have been paid for September. Can this be verified?

Answer: 401(k), Aflac and other benefits were processed with the July 25 payroll. Typically these are all reconciled and submitted to the various companies by the 10th of the following month. Because this is a new system, there was a combination of issues in the formatting of files (these submissions are automated in the new system rather than manual). HR/payroll was getting used to the new report layouts, and, because it was the first payroll in a new system, extra care was given in reconciling the billings. This did result in a delay in submitting those first billing payments.

HR/payroll notified all companies involved. At no time was there any issue regarding cancellation of insurance (which is always prepaid anyway) or a loss to employees. Ceridian has agreed to adjust their invoice to compensate for the amount of interest any employee might have lost in the approximately 45-day delay in getting the 401(k) file submitted. This will allow the county to place that interest back into the employee's account.

As of this time, both July and August have been submitted and there is no reason to believe there will be a delay in submitting September. This has been shared with employees in a number of ways. The email of Sept. 14 explained how the repayment of interest would be handled.

3. Question: For those of us overpaid what happens with the 40l(k), insurance and taxes withheld? What do we do if this puts us in a higher tax bracket? How much time do we have to correct the tax discrepancy? And for those underpaid, the same thing. How do we get them up to par?

Answer: For those overpaid, if the employees' deductions are based on a percentage, that increased amount has already been placed in the employees' 401(k) accounts and matched up to 2 percent by the county (this benefits the employees). Insurance was not affected by the overpayment at all. Taxes were deducted in relation to the amount of pay given based on the employees' W-4s on file.

4. Question: Is this a widespread problem? Have other departments been affected by the payroll issues? The county manager offered to forgive $200 of the money we owed back, will that be for every employee in every department or just EMS, 911 and (Wayne) Net?

Answer: No, this is not a widespread problem. While issues noted in No. 2 were county-wide, the resolution has also been county-wide. There have been relatively few issues in any other department with the exception of the Sheriff's Department. The issues there were related to the wide range of shifts worked in the same cost center and the 168-hour mandate before overtime is paid. Those issues were resolved in August with the exception of a few employees who had some overtime that was paid late.

5. Question: The county manager stated that we were no longer forecasting times, when in fact we are. If they are cutting payroll off Oct. 17, then you are forecasting a half a month. Couldn't this be part of the problem in itself?

Answer: We were not aware the county manager stated that we are no longer forecasting. In meetings I have attended with Mr. Smith, he has indicated that instead of forecasting the whole month as we did in the old system, we now only forecast approximately 10 working days. That is correct. This should not be a problem if employee time is input and authorized in the timesheet correctly. This forecasting simply means that anything outside the schedule worked from the 19th or so until the end of the month will be paid in the following month.

6. Question: We got the impression at the last meeting we had with you that it went into a close session, why is that when it was about payroll and not personnel?

Answer: This item has not been discussed by commissioners in closed session.

7. Question: We would like to know what information human resources and the county manager are referring to that they were unaware of and that we brought to their attention on the last meeting?

Answer: We were not aware that OES (Office of Emergency Services) employees thought their concerns from July had been brought to HR. We had very few concerns brought to HR. One employee came to HR/payroll and told us she had been out on medical leave and should not have received a paycheck. We did, in fact, send her back to her supervisor since time was submitted for her by her supervisor, and we were not sure if the time was based on an error by the supervisor, leave time, compensatory time or why it was submitted. It was confirmed by her supervisor that she should not have been paid. We explained to the employee how we wanted to back the money back through the pay system in order to correct her taxes.

A second employee also reported via email that her check was short some hours. HR/payroll sent that to the OES for verification and when the supervisor approved the additional hours, said second employee was processed a check in a suffix payroll. Neither of these two issues indicated to HR/payroll there was a widespread problem.

Our next indication was later when OES questioned how an employee's check was calculating the fluctuating overtime. (The formula for fluctuating overtime was programmed into the system in June and the testing was approved by an OES employee.) As a result of OES bringing that concern, we set up a conference call with Workforce Management and walked through the process again. This was after the August payroll. Some changes were made, approved by OES, and again the formula was not processing correctly in the September payroll.

I believe the resolution to manually calculate the fluctuating overtime for October and November and then move to straight overtime in December is an excellent resolution. Any hours underpaid as a result of the problem with the formula in the July, August, and September payrolls have already been processed and paid to the employee. The majority of the employees were overpaid and that has been worked out prior to this week's BOC (board of commissioners) meeting.

8. Question: When are the biometric time clocks going to be put in use?

Answer: The biometric time clocks have been installed. Implementation of the clock requires issues such as thumbprint verification, actual loading of the employee data connected to said thumbprint. We anticipate completing this process once the issues and or concerns of the fluctuation work week are resolved. We gave the employees an alternate way of clocking in and out and will be out to load the systems as soon as possible.

9. Question: A Day Force/Work Force/Ceridian representative was here Sept. 26 and 27 and conducted a four-hour workshop for all management; he was unable to answer any questions that were specific to OES. Why was this training not done 8-10 months ago when the system was bought?

Answer: OES representatives were in the demonstration of the system as far back as November of 2011. The OES employee responsible for training the remaining supervisors was trained in April 2012. The trainer we brought in on Sept. 26 and 27 presented the same training again. Participants were instructed to email specific questions because the classes would include participants from a variety of departments and we wanted to be able to respond specifically without confusing others.

10. Question: Why are past employees FT/PT (full time/part time) no longer working for Wayne County still receiving paychecks?

Answer: If employees that are no longer working here are receiving paychecks, we need the departments to submit a Personnel Action Form to terminate them from the system. We are aware of two former employees who received a check. Both have been recouped and the appropriate paperwork submitted.

11. Question: Employees that have worked here for over 90 days are still not receiving direct deposit. Doesn't the policy say direct deposit only? Why are paper checks being issued?

Answer: There could be a number of reasons for a paper check to be processed. If an employee changes banks or closes an account. If an employee moves from full-time to part-time or vice versa (part-time and full-time are processed separately). If new hire orientation is so close to the date, the system tests the account information. The advantage of this new system is that if a deposit is not immediately accepted by the bank, it processes a paper check and it is sent Fed-Ex to the county for distribution to the employee by payday. The old system required the bank send the funds back and it took up to 10 days for the employee to receive their money.

12. Question: Why are the OES staff and supervisors being blamed for these payroll nightmare issues? We have witnessed them spend hundreds of hours trying to resolve these issues. It is not their fault.

Answer: We were not aware that anyone blamed the supervisors. We do want to point out, however, that management of schedules and approval of employee timesheets and submission for processing has always been the responsibility of all county departments.

13. Question: Human resources did state in an email we would be paid hour for hour. Why is that still not happening?

Answer: HR/payroll pays for hours as submitted for processing by the system from the departments.

14. Question: After 40 hours, what is time and a half?

Answer: Any hours worked, after 40 hours physically worked in any week, are paid at time and a half except in the case of the fluctuating overtime and/or exemption by law.