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School employees may see pay shift

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

Staff members in the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s Central Office will try to ease employees’ fears about a proposed bi-weekly pay schedule before school board members vote.

Board members came to a general consensus at Monday’s meeting to put off a vote on changing the pay schedule for non-certified school employees until the method can be more clearly communicated.

Nearly all board members said they had been contacted by school system employees who had concerns about the changes.

“This past weekend I had several phone calls,” said board member Linda Freeze.

Many of those callers were worried about making house payments during July because of the pay delay the new schedule would cause.

Because of the transitional period and payroll processing time, non-certified employees will receive only one check in June for 10 days of work.

An employee who usually makes $2,000 a month will receive one check in July for $1,000. The employee’s annual salary won’t change.

After the transition in June, employees will receive two checks totaling 20 days of pay in short months and three checks totaling 30 days of pay in longer months.

Pay schedules for certified employees such as teachers and administrators won’t change.

Julie James, an administrative assistant in the maintenance department, spoke at the meeting.

She said several maintenance employees approached her about speaking, hoping that board members would look closely at the changes and the hardship they could cause.

Chief Financial Officer Tara Trexler told board members that while there will be a delay, the system is prepared to offer a pre-payment option so employees won’t have problems fulfilling financial obligations.

Other audience members were upset. “Is your paycheck gettin’ messed with?” one asked Trexler as she was explaining the new system.

“Who will benefit from this?” asked board member Jean Kennedy.

Trexler said the system needs to switch to the bi-weekly pay schedule to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The major protection is to the board and Rowan County taxpayers should a liability occur, Trexler said.

The new method will also pay employees for actual time worked and produce paychecks that are more easily understandable.

Freeze said she felt employees didn’t have a problem with the new system and after July things would be fine but, “Its just that they’re worried to death about what’s going to happen right now.”

“The way we’re paying now, can we continue to do that?” asked board member Dr. Jim Emerson.

Trexler said Rowan-Salisbury could keep the current system but “I’m very uneasy about being the person that it comes back to … when that large lawsuit hits.”

“My only concern is that this is our lowest-paid group of employees. These folks are hit time and time again. I have a hard time with this,” said Patty Williams, board member.

Since the school system is willing to offer the pre-payment option, board chairman Bryce Beard said, “Frankly, I don’t see the problem.”

He told Trexler she should put together a one-page document that would easily explain the changes and the options. This letter would be distributed to each affected employee.

“I think we had a failure to communicate,” Beard said.

Assistant Superintendent for Operations Jim Christy volunteered to go with Trexler to different departments and help explain the changes.

Another audience member said the June pay delay was the only thing that bothered him.

“Those two weeks will hurt me. The changing, I can change. I can’t go without my money,” he said.

Freeze said the situation will be win-win if the finance department can help employees understand the new system and the pre-payment option that is available.

Also during Monday’s meeting, board members:

* Voted to return to a committee structure and do away with the monthly board work session. Board members will now serve on two of five standing committees including: Curriculum and Instruction; Buildings and Grounds/Facilities; Grievance; Budget and Finance; and Personnel.

All committees will be chaired by the appropriate staff person and be comprised of two board members, except the grievance committee, which requires three board members. Committees will meet at least once a month. The public will be notified of meeting dates and times.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com.

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