RSS botches tax withholding on teacher supplements, summer contracts

Published 5:11 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools sent emails to staff Wednesday saying there are tax withholding errors on recent payments, mostly to teachers.

The email from new Chief Finance Officer Faith Lambeth says “little or no” federal or state taxes were withheld from the district’s June 22 payroll.

June is a unique month in the district’s payroll because it only includes annual teacher supplements, a low-wealth supplement paid to teachers that is allocated from the state, and summer work contracts.

The message says the error was caught “immediately” and the district plans to withhold the amount to make up the difference in the August-December paychecks. Interim Superintendent Jason Gardner confirmed the details in the emailed message to the Post.

The message claims the issue is software-related and says the district started working to “modernize” its financial and human resources systems funded by a grant the district received in December 2020. The message points to the modernization process leading to payroll issues across the state and notes the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction put a hold on the process because of the software issues.

The grant specified a move to Tyler Technologies software. An NCDPI spokesperson told the Post the department put a pause on implementation of Tyler and Cherry Road Technologies due to “payroll, accounts payable and hiring issues in the two districts that have gone live,” and the pause gave the vendors time to solve the problems.

The pause was lifted June 17. NCDPI told the Post that Rowan-Salisbury Schools is not one of the two “go-live” districts.

“Rowan-Salisbury Schools intends to move forward with modernization as we recognize our current software has limitations,” the email from Lambeth reads. “Still, we want to do so in a way to limit disruptions to our employees. Unfortunately, this is not a quick process for any school district, so we ask for your patience as we work through this endeavor.”

The email concludes by telling staff they do not need to take any action.

This is the latest in payroll woes for the district. On June 2, the Post reported the district had not withheld taxes properly from some employees between Jan. 2021 and April 2022, resulting in some employees owing tax bills in the thousands of dollars.

The district hired a finance consultant in the wake of the issue and sent a message to employees telling them it was confident the issue had been resolved for the “your May 2022 payroll checks and moving forward.”

In April, the district hired a slate of new finance department leadership, including Lambeth and new payroll director Kim Saunders.

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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