Sharon Herrera is the president of the Fort Worth school district’s Association of Texas Professional Educators.
Sharon Herrera is the president of the Fort Worth school district’s Association of Texas Professional Educators.

Fort Worth

Fort Worth school employees upset over payday policy

February 17, 2016 04:09 PM

FORT WORTH

Hundreds of district employees want administrators to shift the monthly payday for thousands of workers, but district officials are hesitant to make changes because of a potential for cash flow problems.

A petition with 1,800 employee signatures recently handed over to Fort Worth school district trustees says thousands must undergo a six-week pay gap in some months, which creates a financial hardship. More than 12,000 district employees, including full-time and hourly employees and substitutes, receive one paycheck on the 28th of each month.

“I have over 1,800 signatures from employees gathered in less than a day, asking for their pay day to be moved to the 20th,’’ said Steven Poole, of the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers’ organization in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “When we’ve brought this forward, there have always been obstacles about why this shouldn’t be done.”

The district has had its challenges with payroll over the years. It made made $1.5 million in overpayments to current and former employees because of software glitches and other problems, in 2009.

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That’s real easy to say when you’re drawing six-figures as executives sitting in the administration office ... it’s harder to do when you’re a teaching assistant making $20,000 a year working with our kids in the classroom.

Steven Poole, United Educators Association

It appears appears unlikely that any swift changes will be made to the current payday schedule.

The new school calendar, officials say, is expected to create a more consistent pay frequency. What’s more, a change in payday could create cash flow issues in some months, because the district receives its money from the state on the 25th day of the designated month, Chief Financial Officer Elsie Schiro wrote in an email in response to Star-Telegram questions.

What’s more, a change would require an assessment of current payday processes, pay periods, software modifications and re-training of staff, Schiro said. All told, the payroll transactions in question total about $50 million each month.

16,000 payroll transactions per month

Sharon Herrera, president of the Fort Worth school district chapter of the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), one of the largest independent educators associations the U.S., said current pay practices are a cause for concern. Many employees struggle to make ends meet, especially in some months, Herrera said.

“If it’s really about building relationships, we need to listen to these employee-voices,’’ Herrera said. “It’s hard to make it without a paycheck six weeks out.”

Poole said employees have been told to better budget their dollars.

“That’s real easy to say when you’re drawing six-figures as executives sitting in the administration office ... it’s harder to do when you’re a teaching assistant making $20,000 a year working with our kids in the classroom,” Poole said.

The district’s payroll department executes 16,000 payroll transactions per month. More than 3,000 child nutrition and transportation workers are paid semi-monthly; 11,500 full-time and hourly employees are paid monthly; 1,400 substitutes are paid monthly, school district officials said.

Yamil Berard: 817-390-7705, @yberard