Committee puts ‘lagging payroll’ on hold
‘Lagging payroll’ again dominated discussion at the county’s financial management meeting, but the issue was
tabled to await a time when the county can better afford a solution.
Lagging the county’s payroll system – shifting the payday a week beyond the end of the pay period – has been under discussion for some time.
In its April meeting, members of the Financial Management Committee voted to send a plan to lag the payroll to the full commission for a vote, but at the Committee’s May meeting, they put that plan on hold.
In May, members of the Committee concluded their meeting without voting on a course of action, agreeing that more discussion was needed on whether to continue with the plan to lag payroll one day per payroll period over the course of five payroll periods (10 weeks) which would result in a 5-work-day lag in payroll or to proceed with a new plan proposed by committee chairwoman JoAnn Blankenship.
Blankenship’s plan would use county money to fund the payroll lagging so that payroll would not be disrupted for the employees but would essentially result in the county giving employees one week’s worth of pay for free. Deloach estimated that the cost to the county to implement Blankenship’s plan would be approximately $150,000.
On May 29, after the Financial Management Committee meeting on May 7, Blankenship attended a county budget workshop of the Budget Committee and presented a request to the committee regarding funding for lagging payroll using funds returned to the county general fund by the department heads at the end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Blankenship presented this request without any vote from the Committee to do so.
“I did go and ask the committee to invest a lump sum of $150,000 into the lagging of the payroll. I spoke not only as the chair person of this committee but in the best interest of Carter County,” Blankenship said. “If I have out spoken or over spoken or done something illegally then I apologize.”
Mayor Leon Humphrey said that while he did not think Blankenship acted illegally, he also did not think she acted in the best interest of Carter County.
“I just can’t see paying $150,000 to lag payroll, something that needs to be done. We’ve all come to terms with that,” Humphrey said. “This is not fair to the employees who are already lagged.”
Currently the only county employees whose payroll is lagged are the employees of the solid waste division. Employees of the school system are also lagged. Humphrey said under Blankenship’s plan, the employees not currently lagged would be given a benefit while those who already have lagged payroll would not receive the same benefit, and that would be discriminatory.
Director of Schools Kevin Ward, who is a member of the committee, said he agreed with Blankenship’s plan and saw it as the best course of action although it will have no affect on his employees.
“I think we need to make the investment,” he said. “It will be an investment of good faith in our employees.”
Committee member Tom “Yogi” Bowers asked why the lagging of payroll was necessary now if there had not been problems in the past, and questioned why, if the county’s payroll practice was so far out of line, had the State Comptroller’s Office not complained.
“I don’t want anyone to think employees are taking advantage of this and stealing time from the county because that is not happening,” Deloach said. “The State Comptroller’s Office has said we need to lag the payroll. There is not fraud or anything like that.”
Deloach said there have been instances where individuals have had to take time off after payroll had been processed and that had to be reconciled. She said there had also been instances where individuals had resigned and not worked days for which the payroll had already been processed. She said in those instances her department has to take steps to receive those funds back from the employee. She said there has been no problem in the past, but that does not mean there will not be a problem in the future.
After a lengthy debate on the topic, Humphrey made a motion to proceed with the original plan to lag the payroll without the $150,000 investment from the county. The motion failed due to a lack of a second.
A motion was then made by Ward to table the issue and revisit it again when the county was in a better financial shape to fund payroll lagging. The motion was seconded by Bowers. The motion passed with the only dissenting vote being cast by Humphrey.