published Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Hamilton County teacher payroll error cleared up

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    Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith

Officials say they're making right the wrong done by last week's payroll snafu that left thousands of school employees without their usual paycheck.

Today, officials will give teachers procedures for seeking reimbursement for any fees they incur as a result of the error.

On Friday, routine direct deposits of paychecks didn't show up for some 3,700 school teachers, assistant principals and classroom aides in what officials called a three-way communication issue among the school system, the county trustee and the bank.

County and school officials say they were able to fix the $3.8 million error faster than they anticipated, with most of those employees receiving their money by Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

Only employees who do not work 12 months out of the year were affected.

On Monday, Superintendent Rick Smith said the three groups were working to ensure that no employees get stuck with overdraft or insufficient funds fees. And new safeguards should be in place to ensure a similar error doesn't happen again.

"I appreciate the fact that money got deposited and we got our people paid. Now the next part of this is cleaning up any issues from that, any fees or penalties," he said. "We hope we cleaned it up where it won't ever happen again."

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    Hamilton County Commissioner Bill Hullander participates in a county commission meeting in this file photo.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

And because most deposits were made by Friday, officials don't expect too many teachers to have incurred fees.

"One good thing that we found today was that all that money hit the bank earlier than we thought it would," County Trustee Bill Hullander said Monday. "So we're not anticipating very many folks being affected."

Hullander's office is working with banks to get fees waived, he said. School employees will receive guidance today about how to get reimbursed and they'll have until Aug. 10 to turn over documentation to the school system.

Hullander said the bank will now notify the school system if there's a problem with payroll files. Apparently an error was found last week, but the school system never received notice.

"We thought we had all the checks and balances in place. Even our audit department didn't see any fault in our checks and balances," Hullander said. "This is just another check and balance that will be added to the process."

It's still not clear who is responsible for the mistake -- officials said they're just focused on getting it resolved.

"We don't want to place blame or point fingers or anything like that," said Christie Jordan, the school system's director of accounting and budgeting. "We just wanted to get the employees paid. And we don't want them to suffer these fees. Those are our main concerns."

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6249.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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