In an effort to appease city employees who were anxious and unhappy about changing to a new payroll system that would have paid them the same amount on a more frequent basis, the Hendersonville Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 11 to 2 Tuesday to give each employee five days extra pay.
The vote, which will cost taxpayers more than $250,000, came after more than a month of discussion and finger pointing about the city's attempt to switch to a new automated time keeping system that was supposed to take effect Aug. 27.
The city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen appropriated money for a new software system that was purchased in March 2015. Department heads, under the direction of then-Mayor Scott Foster, voted in July of that year to change from semi-monthly to bi-weekly pay periods. The project was put on the back burner until earlier this year and was scheduled to be rolled out by IT Director Mary Beth Ippich and Assistant Finance Director Dana Swinea in August.
In July, however, employees received a sample pay check and discovered that in some cases their checks would be significantly lower until March of 2018 when they would be caught to the new system.
Several city employees, including representatives of the local firefighters association and Fraternal Order of Police addressed board members during the Aug. 9 BOMA meeting expressing concerns that their pay checks would be less and asking that the process be delayed.
Board members referred the matter to the city's finance committee which held a special-called meeting Aug. 16.
On Tuesday, board members voted on first reading for an ordinance proposed by the finance committee that would still pay employees on a semi-monthly basis, but change the work periods for which employees will get paid. The pay dates will remain the same with a new work period ending on Jan. 6, 2018.
Finance Committee Chairman Arlene Cunningham said the major complaint her committee received from employees was changing to the bi-weekly system. There was also a concern that there would be a five-day lag time from when employees would be paid, she said.
"That's where we came up with this solution," she added. "Maybe this isn't the best thing, but it's the right thing to do."
During the meeting Ippich told board members the automated system has already been configured to pay employees on a bi-weekly basis and that it will cost the city an additional $25,000 to change it back to semi-monthly. It will still be until around May before the new automated system can go into effect, she added.
Both Mayor Jamie Clary and Ward 1 Alderman Peg Petrelli asked if the city could delay a vote until the next fiscal year since the automated system wouldn't go into effect until May or June.
Several aldermen expressed concern about the appropriation, but said it was the right thing to do for employees.
"I don't really want to spend the $250,000, but... I think it's the right thing," said Ward 4 Alderman Steve Brown. "I'll support it but I'm not going to go home and smile about it."
The measure passed 11 to 2 with Clary and Ward 5 Alderman Darrell Woodcock casting no votes.
"I cannot vote to pay employees six days' pay for one day of work," said Clary after the meeting. "I would prefer to spend that $250,000 on paving roads."
Woodcock said he thought the payroll change should have been delayed until July 1 and included in the next fiscal year budget.
"I have requested numerous items to be addressed in the last few months - small paving jobs, quotes for improvements that could be charged to developers, etc.," said Woodcock. "Every time I am told we do not have a dollar to spare in the general fund. Now all-of-a-sudden we must come up with $250,000 for the catch up days. We don't have it to spend."
A second and final vote on the measure is scheduled for Sept. 26.