West Memphis introduces new payroll plan

City moving to bi-weekly checks for employees

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

West Memphis City Treasurer Frank Martin began making the official rounds in city government last month to spread the glad tidings of the year end employee bonus and tell everyone about the 2016 changes in payroll procedures. The year-end bonus was moved forward this year. Some city employees worked through the personnel committee to advance the idea of moving the year end bonus to before Thanksgiving. They wanted a chance to take advantage of Black Friday door busters and Cyber Monday sales. Martin spread the cheer. “All the employees will had their bonus checks by 11 a.m. Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving,” said Martin. The good news doesn’t stop there. The treasurer told the Airport Commissioners earlier in the day that employees will be paid more often next year. Effective in January, city employees will be paid every two weeks on Friday. This moves the pay frequency from 24 times a year to 26 times a year. “Sometimes we had three weekends in a row without a check,” said Mayor Bill Johnson at a November city council meeting. “That won’t happen anymore.” The reason for the change comes as a result of a state audit of the city’s payroll procedures. The auditor indicated the way the city has been doing twice-a-month payroll for the last 30 years was improper. Councilman Tracy Catt introduced the treasurer’s new plan to city council before turning the presentation over to Martin. “Frank is presenting a needed payroll alternate,” said Catt. “The way we’ve done it in the past is semi-monthly; now its going to be bi-weekly.” Employees will notice some changes. Checks will be for actual hours worked. The main rub with the auditor was that hours worked were estimated for those qualifying for overtime. Then a manual check was issued if there was an error or overtime paid the following pay period. The old way amounted to paying salary to those actually earning an hourly wage and overtime. The new procedure is city-wide and includes the police and fire departments. Full-time qualified employees will enjoy a three percent raise beginning in the new year, but the check will come out less per pay period because there are two more paychecks per year. “Paydays are on Fridays,” said Martin who passed around a new bi-weekly pay calendar. “Instead of getting paid for 86 and 2/3 hours on 24 paydays like we do now, if they work their regular shifts they’ll be paid for 80 hours on 26 paychecks per year.” In a year’s time it all evens out. The first pay bi-weekly check will be issued Jan. 15. Two three paycheck months come along every year and those will be July and December in 2016. Those third checks of the month will net a little more than two-check months because employee contributions to insurance and other benefits will still be deducted just twice a month. New employees will start work with a week hold back moving forward. Technically the whole city payroll moves to week hold back but Martin’s plan aimed at smoothing out the bumps for employees as he adjusts the payroll system to bi-weekly. Councilwoman Ramona Taylor asked for clarification regarding how a holdback might effect current employee, “So employees will be paid Dec. 31st to end 2015? And then they will actually on the 15th they’ll be paid for what?” “They will be paid the 31st, yes; then they will be paid 80 hours on the fifteenth for time through the 8th of January,” said Martin. “If we were doing it any other time of year, it wouldn’t work out.” Martin addressed not charging current employees a holdback during the transition to bi-weekly pay. During an interview the treasurer indicated that a payroll week amounted to $300,000 to the city. But that a budget year is a budget year and 26 pay periods equals a whole year and full wages. “If you look at it in a capsule it’s $300,000,” said Martin. “When you spread it over 12 months and look at it over the whole year we end up paying the annual wages on the 26 checks. That is bi-weekly pay.” Martin told city elected officials he’d begin presenting the details to departments right just before Thanksgiving.

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