‘It’s Just Egregious’: Payroll Problems Frustrating Prince George’s County Schools Employees

WTOP NEWS: Paychecks are a problem for many Prince George’s County Public School employees in Maryland. Besides the fact that many of them feel underpaid, some employees have been dealing with miscalculated payments that are either too high or too low depending on where they work.

The problem started last summer when over 350 employee members of Local 2250 — a union representing those who keep schools operating every day — were essentially paid double.

“When I emailed payroll questioning the double payment, I was told that my payment was correct,” said Terita McCoy, who works in the school system’s security division.

“I know that it was not correct, so I emailed them several times. I reached out via the phone and said ‘Hey, do you know what’s going on?’”

She, and Stanley Brown, the supervisor of security, say they both tried to pay the money back immediately. Eventually, in the fall, the school system started taking money out of their paychecks to get the money back. McCoy said every paycheck is nearly $200 smaller now.

On top of that, they said the county is reclaiming the gross payment those employees got, not the net payment that came after taxes were deducted.

“If you do recoup the money, why would recoup the gross and not the net?” asked Martin Diggs, who leads Local 2250.

“Show them some love, show them some respect, that you actually appreciate them, because of the work that they do.”

The school system blames this situation on a problem with pension deductions.

Originally, it was on a plan to recoup all of the money by the end of the school year, but now, a spokeswoman said in a statement emailed to WTOP, the money will be recouped through the end of the calendar year.

But is it happening for everyone?

Diggs said some employees who work in the transportation division, and are dealing with an overpayment that’s slightly different, were told they can keep their overpayments.

“They were allowed to keep the money that was overpaid. How did it make me feel? It made me feel, again, these individuals are not valued,” said Diggs, adding to sentiments that McCoy and Brown both shared.

The school system said everyone who was overpaid will have to pay the money back.

On the flip side, teachers say they’re dealing with the opposite problem. At the moment, dozens of them say their checks are less than what they’re supposed to be paid.

“For example, a member has completed their requirements for certification or another degree to move to another salary lane,” explained Donna Christy, who leads the county’s teachers’ union.

“There are extremely long delays in processing that movement on the salary scale. It takes (at least) another five payroll cycles. So that’s about 10 weeks to get the retroactive pay from the delay in processing.”

She said that for some members, it can take about four months to get their checks right.

A county spokeswoman said they were looking into questions posed about the payroll department, which Christy said deals with understaffing and archaic operating systems that require a lot more manual processing of payments than it should.

She said some teachers have been waiting 15 weeks for tuition reimbursement programs to pay out money they’re owed for that.

“(For) a school system with 20,000 employees to still be manually processing things in 2024, just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s ineffective,” said Christy. “It’s just getting worse.”

“Regardless of what reason they want to give, our members deserve to be paid what was negotiated for them. They have a contract in place that says they’re supposed to get paid a certain amount and they’re not being paid that amount. And that’s just egregious,” she added.

The teachers’ union says the department that handles absence management for the county is also struggling to keep up.

“I’ve had members who put in for (family and medical leave) that were expecting to give birth and were literally calling me from the hospital in labor because absence management had not processed their FMLA requests,” said Christy. “(The requests) were submitted in a timely fashion … it wasn’t submitted last minute.”

“It’s also (a problem) with people returning from long-term leave and the approval for them to return to work is not going through,” she added.

“That’s causing other pay issues because then they’re not on approved leave because their doctors have returned them to work but absence management has not returned them to work.”

“It’s just taking far too long to correct these situations and process,” Christy added.

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