Thursday, February 3, 2011
Direct deposit revisited
By SUE WATSON
Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry sent a letter to city employees who are paid weekly to take the pulse of whether they want direct deposit of their payroll checks.
He informed the board of alderman of his poll at a meeting in January.
“There seems to be a great degree of uneasiness on what all this means on the part of the employees,” the mayor said.
He said he hopes to meet with city employees to see what they have to say about direct deposit of payroll checks.
Alderman Russell Johnson, a proponent of direct deposit for those who want it, asked when the city would implement it.
DeBerry said the payroll clerk, the bankers and data processing would have input into the decision of how and when to implement the board’s decision to offer direct deposit.
“I’m just trying to let people know if we go to payroll deposit, it would affect weekly and biweekly employees,” the mayor said.
Johnson asked if utility department employees had taken advantage of direct deposit.
DeBerry said 17 out of 68 employees have signed up. They are paid on the first and the 15th of the month.
Since the city pays some employees weekly, others every two weeks and others monthly, DeBerry has said this affects how employees manage their money.
Alderman Harvey Payne asked if employees could choose immediately to go to direct deposit.
“It can be assumed any time,” said DeBerry.
“I don’t see what’s stopping the process now,” Payne said.
“I think employees need to understand there will be no more weekly payrolls, whether or not they choose direct deposit,” the mayor said. “Those who choose not to go to direct deposit need to understand that.”
Two street department workers stepped up to express the pleasure of their group, supplying a list of all street employees who are opposed to direct deposit.
“We have a petition signed by people who wouldn’t like to go every two weeks,” said Herman Houston. “Most people are not making enough to go every two weeks – to be able to stretch that kind of money. If you all choose to go to direct deposit it would capitalize on everybody to take that biweekly plan.”
The city has 70 employees and about 50 percent are paid every week, said alderman Johnnie Ree Bagley.
Royce Pegues, another street worker, said his check was not enough to open a bank account.
“Direct deposit is optional,” said DeBerry.
The men said some employees need checks weekly to pay for gas to get to work and for food.
DeBerry said the option to pay employees biweekly or monthly are the two options available.
He said he wants to see how many employees want to be paid every two weeks and go to direct deposit.
Bagley asked how many people took the survey seriously.
Houston said most people didn’t know that if the city chooses direct deposit on a biweekly basis that weekly paychecks will not be issued.
He said there are 77 employees in general city and some may not know about the proposed change.
DeBerry said each department is to take a pulse to see what employees want.
The board will have the final say on whether direct deposit will be offered, the mayor said.
Houston said his paycheck has decreased three times in the last year and he barely makes it week to week.
He added that he is not opposed to those who want direct deposit having it.
DeBerry said if the payroll schedule changes it will affect everybody and he wants the board of aldermen to be aware of “adverse effects on employees and data processing.”
“My motion was to make the service available to those who want it,” Payne said.
DeBerry said he thinks all employees have a right to express their views.
“The bottom line is nothing has been changed at this point?” asked alderman Calvin James.
“To change there would have to be an action by the board,” DeBerry said.
Bagley said the city clerk has informed the board that payroll would have to be deposited biweekly and the measure would not go into effect immediately.
“This letter (the mayor’s letter to employees) tells me if they go biweekly, they have to make some adjustments,” she said.
DeBerry said employees had initially been informed they would have a weekly payroll option.
“I think the employees have a right to say what they want,” he said. “My concern is how it impacts the average employee of the city. A lot of people who do not have bank accounts may use money orders. That still exists in this country.”
James said he left the last meeting under the assumption that direct deposit was optional.
“I am not in agreement of a forced decision,” he said.
James, who has been using direct payroll deposit since the 1980s, said he favors it.
“It’s clearly the better way to be paid,” he said. “But everybody can’t do it. If it was stated when you came in, it would be up to you to take the job or not. I think we are going around in circles too much and we need to make a decision.”
DeBerry said his poll of employees “allows consent or not consent in terms of what happens.”
“I have to disagree with you for two reasons,” said Johnson. “I have no problems with the process - I’ve been through both options. I’m definitely concerned that employees have time for adjustment. I got paid once a month, then went every two weeks. I was so happy when we went to direct deposit. I liked to feel my money, but I like it now. My concern is we are taking so long we are creating problems rather than correcting problems.”
DeBerry countered, “The board is concerned at some point in time the board has to set a parameter of policy and procedures and delegate administrative responsibility to those who are employed in the administrative positions.”
“Make sure it is unbiased,” said Johnson.
Bagley shared her history of payroll.
“I worked for a company in Memphis and got paid weekly,” she said. “The CEO changed to biweekly without asking us what we wanted. Now I’m used to monthly.”
James said he was in total agreement with offering direct deposit to those who want it until he learned it would affect weekly payroll for those who want to keep it.
DeBerry asked the board to agree to let him take a poll.
“I am in agreement to look at dates and let the board make the decision,” said Johnson, “not that employees make the decision for us. I want to know what the bank says, what employees say, and what the payroll clerk says - all the information that is available.”
Payne asked if the board needed a motion to allow the utility department to offer direct deposit. (The utility already offers payroll deduction).
DeBerry said it should be spread on the minutes that the board is “granting the utility the authority to empower them to do that - give them permission (after the fact).”
“I so move,” James said.
Payne said he wants to wait for another meeting to decide on that motion as well.
DeBerry said James’ motion would add clarity for future boards.
Attorney Ki Jones said the city clerk was not present to read the minutes.
“This is not my first rodeo,” said DeBerry, “merely a procedural point of clarity.”
“I motion the utility is given the authority to execute direct deposit,” James said.
The motion died for lack of a second.
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