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Schools Business Manager: Software Glitches Caused Paycheck Problems, Issue Resolved Now

The business manager for the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District told the School Committee on Thursday that two separate computer problems caused teacher paychecks to have different amounts in recent weeks but gross pay amounts were not affected.

The school district’s business manager on Thursday defended the handling of pay issues in recent weeks where teachers complained that they were receiving varying amounts of net pay.

The amount of gross pay never changed and the issue was with the withholding of taxes, according to the businesses manager for the , Pola Andrews. It was immediately resolved, she said.

The issue was first brought to the attention of the School Committee last week in a letter from the teachers union - formally called the Hamilton-Wenham Regional Education Association – as part of a two-page letter expressing its opinion about . But in addition, the union’s executive board said in the letter that starting in December there were “major errors” with payroll.

“During the last five pay cycles, the net amounts of our checks have all been different,” the letter stated. “Teachers have been contacting the central office with no response or have been directed to contact their tax preparer for clarification.”

Alexa McCloughan, chairman of the School Committee, said Andrews explained the situation to the committee’s Finance Working Group earlier this week. But since it is an “important issue” she wanted the full School Committee to hear from Andrews too. Andrews addressed the School Committee when it met on Thursday night at .

“What Pola brought to our attention is that the way it was characterized in the letter from the union was not accurate,” McCloughan said.

Andrews said that there were some pay problems and some employees were paid less than they should have been in early December. But all the adjustments were made in the next pay period, on Dec. 22 and the correct amount was paid by the end of the year. The errors were all related to tax withholdings and not gross pay, Andrews said.

“There were no errors in gross pay,” she said. “Simply put, everyone received the correct pay.”

The issue started during the processing of pay for Dec. 8 when the payroll system crashed three times. When it was restarted, it picked up stipend placeholders that were entered on July 1. Since then, though, some stipends were eliminated and others were increased with the passage of a new teachers contract.

The differing stipend amounts were discovered and corrected during the next pay period and the computer used by the payroll administrator – that was the cause of the software crash - was replaced.

Then, in the second pay period in January, the budget software would not allow the final step top proceed in the payroll process. It was discovered that a “software glitch” caused a line to be missing, affecting only employees claiming “single” and making less than $2,150 annually.

Since then, Andrews said she has personally checked through selected checks “and I found no errors.” She will continue to check paychecks, she said.

She also refuted accusations that the schools’ central office has been unresponsive about the issue.

“This is simply not true,” she said, and has offered to meet with any staff member with a concern about pay. She met with four employees – three had claimed different withholdings than they though and the fourth was getting less on their paycheck than a prior district – even though their salary is more – because of different benefits.

McCloughan said Kristen Losee, president of the union, met with Andrews on Thursday morning.

“I think things have settled down on this particular issue,” McCloughan said.

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