Payroll 'crisis' might force Bedden's hand

Richmond County School System workers are continuing their efforts this morning to restore a payroll server that has been on the blink for the past week.

As of 10 a.m., the server was still inactive. If it isn't restored today, Richmond County school Superintendent Dana Bedden and school board President Marion Barnes must sign 850 checks to make sure workers get their money on time.

"We'll have arthritis, but that's OK," Bedden said with a smile after detailing to the school board Tuesday what he called a "crisis" situation with the system's payroll server.

Bedden told board members meeting in committee the aging system has been on the blink for the past week -- which he said is the result of too little maintenance and delayed upgrades amid continued budget cuts.

"At some point, the rubber meets the road," he told the board. "You miss a paycheck and see how many people are happy or unhappy."

He added after the meeting: "This is what happens when you keep cutting your school system."

The situation involves about 850 workers who are paid bi-monthly. The board was assured that all of the workers will receive their checks on time, but if the payroll software is not restored by today the process will involve the manual signing of all 850 checks and plenty of extra overhead work.

Once the system is restored, Bedden said, he'll have to pay about $4,500 to bring some bookkeepers back from their summer vacation to enter in needed payroll information for processing. The information normally would have been entered by the employees about a week ago before they left for the summer, but he said the system went down before they could do so.

A similar blip occurred with the payroll server in April. In that case, it was restored in time to prevent checks from being late.

Bedden said cutbacks have forced the school system to reduce its maintenance on the system, which once was performed around the clock. He said he'll exercise his authority allowed in emergency situations to pay for the bookkeeper costs and to consider paying someone to maintain the system 24 hours, seven days a week.

In the meantime, system workers are counting the days until a new payroll system is implemented in July.

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