Teachers concerned about extra paycheck Union wants option for New Year's payday

November 20, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County expects to start tonight's school board meeting with a payroll gripe.

The union is asking that employees get a choice of taking their New Year's Day pay the day before or the day after the holiday.

A payroll quirk this academic year does two things: Without increasing pay, it adds one pay date and places the biweekly Wednesday payday on Jan. 1, 1997, a bank holiday.

School officials decided to stick with a tradition of advancing the pay a day when banks are closed on payday.

But union officials said the switch would artificially boost 1996 fTC salaries. John Kurpjuweit, union president, said his office has fielded dozens of calls from teachers who prefer a Jan. 2 pay date because they fear the earlier one will push them into a higher tax bracket for 1996 or decrease scholarships for their children in college.

An analysis by a union accountant indicated a Dec. 31 pay date could cost a teacher up to $472 in taxes due in April 1997. Some employees would recoup some of that a year later.

"We are asking that people be given the option," Kurpjuweit said. "If not the 31st, then the second [of January]."

While only teachers voiced concern, the option would have to extend to some 8,000 employees.

Union officials hope the eight-member school board will override the decision by school business officials.

"We can't do that. It's an administrative nightmare," said Ronald L. Beckett, associate superintendent for business and management services.

"It's such a manually intensive task, and we are just not staffed for that," said Lee Shackelford, supervisor of the 16-person compensation unit.

Each switch would take one hour. First, the regular payroll would have to be run for Dec. 31. Direct deposit is mandatory, so deposits of teachers who wanted the change would have to be canceled. Payroll officers would have to cut checks dated Jan. 2, which would have to be mailed or picked up.

For workers worried about scholarship eligibility, the school system has offered to send a letter explaining the quirk, Beckett said. But Kurpjuweit said universities probably would give such a note short shrift.

The school system offered to withhold more in taxes over the last few paychecks of the year, or eligible employees could channel more money into tax-saver accounts. Or employees could settle with the Internal Revenue Service in April.

While the dispute will not cast a lasting pall over contract talks, Kurpjuweit said it will further sour the feelings many teachers have about the central office staff in Annapolis.

The school board meets at 7: 30 p.m. at the Board of Education in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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