Polk County Public Schools, Unions, Restructure Pay Policy
Twice Monthly Pay Option Must be Selected by May 15
Last updated 5/6/2020 at 11:26am
"Our employees told us this was something they wanted. We listened, we collaborated closely with our unions, and working together, we made it happen. I'm very proud we are able to give this option to the hardworking people of PCPS," said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd.
For as long as most memories serve, PCPS employees have been paid once a month on the last workday of the month. While some employees are accustomed to the existing schedule, for others, going weeks between paychecks can cause financial strain.
That's why creating a twice-a-month pay option was a key point in recent bargaining with the Polk Education Association (PEA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2227. PEA represents teachers, paraeducators and clerical support personnel. AFSCME represents bus drivers and attendants as well as school nutrition, custodial and maintenance personnel.
Over the last several months, a bargaining subcommittee explored the pay-frequency issue and searched for solutions. Subcommittee members included representatives from the district and both unions.
Based on the subcommittee's work, employees will have three options for how to receive their pay beginning on July 1.
"We have more than 13,000 employees, but we had a one-size-fits-all pay schedule that didn't fit everyone," said Chief Financial Officer Michael Perrone. "These three options will make our payroll system more flexible and better able to meet our employees' needs."
Employees can make their payroll selection in the staff portal beginning Thursday, April 23; the deadline to make a selection is May 15.
PEA President Stephanie Yocum agreed many current employees will appreciate the chance to select a pay-frequency option that better suits their financial situation.
"Existing employees now have the options for pay frequency they've been demanding for quite a while," Yocum said. "Everyone will get the opportunity to have pay periods that meet their personal needs, whether it's staying with once a month or opting for two checks per month."
Employees can choose from the following options:
Option 1 - Stay On the Current Pay Schedule
Employees who choose this option will continue to be paid once a month on the last workday of the month, just as they are currently.
Option 2 - Prepare for a Twice-Per-Month Pay Schedule by Using a Monthly Holdback
To understand options two and three, it's helpful to delve a little deeper into the district's payroll system.
Currently, an employee is paid at the end of the month for a full month of work.
The problem is that while employees receive their paycheck on the last workday of the month, their payroll information is actually entered about two weeks earlier to allow enough time for processing.
Occasionally, employees take leave - or may quit - in the days after the month's payroll has been submitted. When that happens, the paycheck they receive may not reflect their true hours worked. The district must then adjust leave balances or recoup overpayments after the fact.
In examining the pay schedule options, members of the subcommittee saw an opportunity to begin bringing the district's payroll into what's called "arrears." When employees are paid in arrears, they are paid for work that has already been performed.
"Virtually every other business and organization pays in arrears," Perrone said. "It is much more efficient, and it will allow us to be better stewards of taxpayer money."
Employees who choose option two will receive half their monthly paycheck in the middle of the month, and the other half at the end of the month.
But in order to get them into arrears - a goal of the subcommittee - there will be an extended period between their last monthly check and their first semi-monthly check.
Specifically, an existing employee will receive a full monthly check on June 30. If they've selected option two, they will then receive half their monthly pay on July 31. That check will accurately reflect the time they worked from July 1-15, and the employee will then be in arrears. The employee would then receive a paycheck in mid-August for the work performed in the last two weeks of July, another at the end of August for their work in the first two weeks of August, and so on.
"While this one-time shift in pay periods can be confusing," Perrone added, "the most important thing to know is that each and every employee will be paid for the work they do. The lag between when work is performed and when it is paid for will allow for accurate processing."
Added AFSCME Local 2227 President Larry Milhorn: "It will reduce errors in payroll."
Option two was designed for employees who want to be paid twice-a-month but who will find the transition to the new schedule financially challenging. When employees select this option, they will continue to receive a monthly paycheck during the 2020-21 school year, but the monthly amount will be slightly less.
The "holdback" taken out each month will, over 12 months, equate to one half of their monthly pay. That money will be set aside and will be issued to the employee in mid-July 2021, thereby easing their transition to the twice-a-month schdedule.
Option 3 - Immediately Convert to the Twice-Per-Month Pay Schedule With No Holdback
Employees who choose this option will receive their full monthly paycheck on June 30. On July 31, they will receive a check for half their monthly pay, for the work they did July 1-15. They would then be paid again in mid-August, for the work performed in the latter half of July, and so on.
"Again, everyone is being paid for the time they work. The only difference is they will be paid after the work is performed," Perrone said.
Under option three, no holdback will be taken to help employees transition to the new schedule.
The various scenarios are difficult to understand, and there will be some variations throughout the district. Most notably, bus drivers and attendants are already paid in arrears, so there will be no transition period for those employees.
Beginning April 23, employees can log into Staff Portal to compare which option will best benefit their unique needs, down to actual dollars and cents. Employees who do not make a selection will remain on the monthly pay schedule.
All employees hired after July 1 will be paid twice monthly. Yocum said this will appeal to new hires.
"Polk is one of a few districts that still pays once per month, and newly hired staff seem to be mostly flabbergasted when they learn they will receive only one paycheck per month. I believe the shift to a twice-a-month pay structure will be a welcome one to our new hires.