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Austin ISD Salary Screw Up

UPDATE: Accounting system failure leads to underpaid teachers

By Richard Whittaker, 11:40AM, Fri. Nov. 1, 2013

Austin ISD Salary Screw Up

Many Austin ISD teachers are wondering where their money is this morning, after an accounting system screw up left an unknown number with miscalculated and short salary checks.

The issue seems to be connected to the district's digital accounting system, and it only became known when staff received their October pay check yesterday. The issue seems to be restricted to teacher salaries only, with administrative and classified employees such as custodians and bus drivers unaffected. However, some teachers are seeing a big impact. Education Austin president Ken Zarifis said, "We were hearing that there were some $300-$400 differences with the paychecks."

Zarifis said he had been told by the administration that "isolated employee groups" had been affected, but he is still waiting to hear numbers.

Some staff saw their checks reduced to balance out a previous system glitch – overpayments in August. However, there were two areas where the system failed: First, in handling step and scheduled salary increases, and second, in REACH teacher incentive pay. While concerned about both, Zarifis said that the incentive checks are overshadowed by concerns about the base pay. He said, "Your payroll check is so much about your monthly bills, and we need to get them out to people now."

Zarifis said he did not want to point fingers at the administration. However, he saw this as a consequence of state cuts to funding, at a time when the accounting system needs upgrading. "I get the sense that this is an overly-burdened system that can't handle the amount of input and what's being demanded of it." He added, "Until a payroll system breaks down, its hard to make the argument that it needs replacing."

UPDATE, 1.55pm: Staff in the office of Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley have been working since the error was discovered last night. An internal audit found that the bulk of the errors were on REACH payments, and some staff are already seeing direct deposits into their accounts. The plan is to have all currently-known errors corrected by close of business Monday. However, an email will go out to all staff today, and they are encouraged to contact the district if they feel there are more undetected errors in their pay.

The problem seems to be a software issue with the district's accounting system. The district actually included over $1 million for upgrades in the 2008 bond package, but that's a less than optimal way to pay for systems like that. Ideally, it should come out of the maintenance and operations side of the budget. However, with ISDs across Texas operating on shoe string day-to-day funding, increasingly such virtualized investment is being tied in with construction spending.

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