New system misread employees’
bank account numbers
The Berkeley Unified School District’s new data processing system, long hailed as the answer to chronic accounting and payroll problems within the district, faltered in its first attempt to process payroll Wednesday.
Quintessential School Systems, installed July 1, didn’t deliver paychecks to about 100 employees with direct deposit. The Wednesday payroll covered about 800 employees, including about 300 with direct deposit.
Associate Superintendent Jerry Kurr, who did not receive a paycheck himself, apologized for the mistake but said it was a “small error.” He said the district will correct the problem and that employees would receive full pay by the end of the day Thursday.
But Don Abare, former data processing manager for the district, called the payroll snafu “a big mess” and said the district would have caught the error in advance had it run something called a “pre-notification” test on the system before Wednesday.
“They definitely should have done a pre-note,” said Abare. “We used to do pre-notes all the time.”
Kurr acknowledged that a “pre-note” would have caught the error. But in order to conduct such a test, he said, the district must in the meantime cut regular checks for direct deposit employees. Such a process requires advanced notice to employees, he said, and many are on summer vacation.
In the months leading up to the $750,000 QSS conversion, district officials and school board members said the new system would go a long way toward improving a business office that in the last year-and-a-half doled out medical insurance payments for workers no longer with the district and on one occasion, issued double pay to several employees.
Kurr said district staff is still learning to operate QSS, but that he has been pleased with the new system so far. QSS, he said, provides many services that the old system did not.
After processing payroll, QSS calculates employees’ withholdings for retirement benefits, credit union deposits and insurance and then cuts checks for the appropriate amount. The district can then send those checks easily to the proper vendor.
But Abare said the old system is tailored to the district’s needs and is superior to QSS.
Abare left the district under mysterious circumstances last year. He said he could not discuss his departure because of an agreement with the district.
The Wednesday payroll error occurred because QSS failed to read the “0” preceding several employees’ bank account numbers. Kurr said the business office will make adjustments to the system to correct the problem.
Kurr said he is drafting a letter to employees, apologizing for the mistake and is offering to cover any bank fees that may result from the payroll snafu.
Barry Fike, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said he had not heard from any union members about the payroll error. But he said direct deposit errors, and the delayed pay that results, can cause problems.
Employees who have mortgage payments electronically withdrawn from their bank accounts at regular intervals, for instance, may not have the funds to cover their costs, he said.