Beginning with the fiscal year that starts July 1, existing Polk County Public Schools employees can be paid twice monthly, if they choose.
“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. While some employees are accustomed to the existing schedule, going weeks between paychecks can cause financial strain for others.
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 discussed solutions. Subcommittee members included representatives from the district and both unions.
Based on the subcommittee’s work, employees now have three options for how to receive their pay after 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 Wednesday, April 29. 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 — Continue to be Paid Monthly
Employees who choose this option will continue to be paid once a month, just as they are currently. If an employee does not select an option by May 15, they will continue to be paid once a month. Each spring, employees will have the opportunity to change to the twice-monthly pay schedule.
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 at the end of the month, their payroll information is actually entered about two weeks earlier to allow for processing.
Occasionally, employees take a leave of absence — or resign or retire — 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.
In examining the pay schedule options, members of the subcommittee saw an opportunity to reduce overpayments by beginning to bring 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. Option two is designed to ease that transition by giving employees a year to prepare.
For example, an existing 12-month employee will receive a full monthly check at the end of June 2021. If they’ve selected option two, they will then receive half their monthly pay beginning at the end of July 2021. That check will accurately reflect the time they worked in the first half of July, and the employee’s pay will then be in arrears. The same employee would then receive a paycheck in mid-August for the work performed in the last half of July, another at the end of August for their work in the first half 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.”
Option two was designed for employees who want to be paid twice-a-month but who will find the switch to the new schedule financially challenging. Again, for example, a 12-month employee who selects option two will be paid his or her full monthly check in June 2021; a month later, the same employee will receive a check for half his or her monthly pay.
When employees select option two, 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 the employee’s contract year, equate to one half of their monthly pay. That money will be set aside and will be issued to the employee in July or August 2021 — depending on the employee’s annual work schedule — thereby easing their way into the twice-a-month schedule.
Ten and 11-month employees already have a holdback taken throughout the year to pay them over summer break. If they choose option two, an additional holdback will be taken.
Option 3 — Immediately Convert to the Twice-per-Month Pay Schedule With No Holdback
This option is the same as option two, but with no money set aside to ease the transition to the twice-monthly pay schedule. Employees will receive their normal paycheck on June 30, 2020. They will then receive two checks per month, each for half their monthly pay. (Ten and 11-month employees will receive their holdback paychecks at the end of July as normal.)
The date of the first check for half a month’s work will depend on the employee’s annual work schedule.
For 12-month employees, it will be July 31, reflecting what they worked in the first half of July; for 11-month employees, it will be Aug. 14, reflecting what they worked in the last half of July; for 10-month employees, it will be Aug. 31, reflecting what they worked the first half of August.
“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.
The various scenarios are difficult to understand, and there will be some variations throughout the district.
Beginning April 29, employees can log into Staff Portal to compare which option will best benefit their unique needs. Employees who do not make a selection will remain on the monthly pay schedule. Once an employee selects the twice-monthly schedule, they cannot revert back to monthly.
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,” she said.
Added AFSCME President Local 2227 Larry Milhorn:
“The union and management worked on this to make hiring and keeping employees easier.”