RSS will deduct overpayment from employees’ June checks

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, May 10, 2022

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools overpaid its 10-month staff and is going to recoup the difference as required by the state.

The issue was traced back to retroactive pay increases for staff issued in January. In December, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a budget that included a complicated list of pay increases school for faculty and staff. Among the provisions were increases to the minimum wage for hourly employees as well as percentage increases.

Those increases in pay were made retroactive to July 1, meaning employees would be paid additional money as if they were making the increased amount back in July. That money was paid to RSS employees in January.

On Friday, the district sent a message to employees stating 10-month employees were paid for seven months of retroactive increases rather than five and the district will subtract the difference from June paychecks. The message stated how much would be deducted for each employee and the error was attributed to a software issue.

Faculty are generally 10-month employees, as well as a number of support staff. For example, a Pre-K teacher assistant position position posted on the district job board last week is listed as a 10-month position while a dual role custodian and bus driver position is posted for 12 months.

The message to faculty noted teachers will receive their local supplement payments in June as well as $825.

The RSS Board of Education added a discussion about this issue to its Monday meeting agenda.

Board Chair Dean Hunter described the overpayment as “unfortunate, in a lot of ways.” He said himself and other members have spoken to many employees who reached out to them and offered apologies for the error.

Hunter said he wanted the issue added to the agenda so the board’s attorney could explain why the board has to seek repayment.

Lindsay Smith, an attorney for education law firm Tharrington Smith, which represents the board, outlined that the district is not allowed to forgive the overpayment because of a state statute that forbids it in this case. She said the law requires any overpayment of state money for a state-funded position has to be recouped by the entity that overpaid.

“The overpayment has to be offset against the the wages of the person who received the overpayment,” Smith said. “So, it is a legal requirement set by the General Assembly in the state statutes.”

The law also specifically says boards do not have discretion to forgive overpayment in cases like this.

“It really binds the board’s hands and requires the board to go through this repayment process that it notified folks about on Friday,” Smith said.

Hunter said the board does value its teachers and would have forgiven the overpayment if it was allowed to.

“It sounded terrible to get the news that we had to actually attempt to recoup money that had been overpaid,” he said adding the board is reeling over the mistake.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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