City teachers promised paycheck mistakes will be made good

July 27, 1999|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City schools chief Robert Booker promised yesterday to make up for a payroll error by cutting checks within a day for teachers who were underpaid Friday and by offering to reimburse employees for overdrafts.

School employees hand-wrote emergency paychecks Friday to 407 summer school teachers and staff who were not issued their pay automatically. Another 50 staff members were paid yesterday.

Many of the teachers were given partial payments, in some cases only a third or half of what they expected. The teachers then heard that they would receive the remainder in their next regular paycheck Aug. 6.

That infuriated some teachers and staff.

"I received $400 and should have received $960," said Angela Harris, a 25-year veteran of the school system who teaches at City Springs Elementary School.

"It was just unbelievable," said Terri Randall, a secretary at Northwestern High School. "You have people who are preparing to send their children off to college, never mind that you have your mortgage, electric bill. They just don't think about how it affects people. Some people are living paycheck to paycheck. It is not fair to them."

Booker said yesterday he was unaware that the partial payments had been so small.

Randall said many employees have their paychecks deposited directly into checking accounts each week rather than receiving paper checks. Employees often write checks, such as mortgage payments, on a Thursday, expecting the money to be available the next day, she said.

Randall stood in line with dozens of other angry employees Friday afternoon for 1 1/2 hours waiting to get paid. By the time she got a check, the Municipal Employees Credit Union, where she has her account, was closed and she could not deposit it, she said. As a result, a check might bounce.

Harris and Randall said it would not be a financial hardship for their families for a paycheck to be delayed one pay period, but they pointed out that single parents might have difficulty.

Booker said employees who received a significantly smaller paycheck than they were owed should contact the school office where they work or the payroll department. "If an employee indicates they were grossly underpaid, we will, of course, immediately cut a check," he said.

He also promised to reimburse employees who have overdrafts because of the paycheck errors.

The schools chief is investigating what went wrong in the accounting and payroll system that has been issuing checks to 3,000 summer employees this month. Booker speculated that the city school's computer system refused to issue checks to some staff, perhaps because of an accounting practice in which teachers have to be re-enrolled on the school payroll for summer work.

Pub Date: 7/27/99

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