The district was twice late transmitting employees’ direct deposits, and has uncovered errors in its handling of pension enrollment and contributions.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 17, 2018
After two missed paydays in two months and a host of pension errors, teachers in the Haddon Heights School District are looking for answers.
Haddon Heights Superintendent of Schools Mike Adams confirmed Monday that the district was late in making its mid-November and mid-December 2018 direct deposit payments.
Adams said he is investigating the root causes of the issue, and that the district is financially solvent.
In both instances, employees were still paid, he said—just later than they should have been.
“It’s not an error in the availability of the funds,” Adams said. “Payroll was not transmitted on time.”
Haddon Heights Schools Business Administrator Mark Stratton said the district handles its payroll responsibilities in-house. On Friday, the district posted a job opening for an Interim/Payroll Benefits Coordinator.
“We need a new payroll person,” Stratton said. He added that, in working to correct the issue, “There’s potential for hiring extra help.”
Stratton said the district would reimburse any employees whose accounts were overdrawn as a result of the delay.
Only a few staffers reported having been charged banking fees from the missed mid-November pay period, he said.
Stratton said no one had yet presented any concerns about the missed December pay date.
He didn’t offer a guess as to how much the district could potentially have to reimburse its workers for the delays.
Along with the direct deposit issues, Stratton also acknowledged that the district had discovered inconsistencies in its management of employee 403(b) retirement plan deductions.
“There’s been delays in some people getting enrolled in the state pension system,” Stratton said. “I’m not trying to blame the system, the state, or us” for those issues, he said.
But in at least one case, “something fell through the cracks, and “one individual should have been e-mailed years ago,” that contributions weren’t being made to his or her pension plan, Stratton said. He wouldn’t comment on the financial scope of the error, but did say the district will consult state protocols for how to address the situation.
“Our next steps are to try to do the best we can going forward” Stratton said.
Adams said the district has been in talks with the Haddon Heights Education Association (HHEA), which represents the district’s 150 unionized staffers, about the issues since they were identified.
HHEA President James Whitescarver, a music teacher in the district, said he’s reserving judgment until more is known about the situation.
“I don’t think that there’s any way to remedy this without determining precisely how and why this happened,” Whitescarver said.
“This is irregular for it to happen one time,” he said. “For it to happen two times in short order is doubly irregular.”
Whether the union would file a grievance about the incident “is up for discussion,” Whitescarver said.
The body will gather Tuesday afternoon to discuss next steps; in the meantime, Stratton said the district is working to make some fixes right away.
“We’re not waiting for a grievance to come forward to rectify the situation,” he said.
The district and HHEA employees are operating under a memorandum of agreement negotiated during the summer, but the final contract hasn’t yet been signed. Nonetheless, Whitescarver said he doesn’t think “that what occurred in any way relates to our contract.”
As for the district, “Right now our focus is on preparing the next payroll,” Adams said.
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