NC State Treasurer, NCAE share ongoing concerns regarding payroll issues in Gaston County Schools

The district transitioned from its old payroll system to a new system, Oracle, at the end of January.
For more than eight months, educators, bus drivers, custodians, and other employees have shared their concerns after getting incomplete checks.
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 6:55 PM EDT

GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - The next pay cycle for Gaston County Schools employees is quickly approaching but many say they’re doubtful their checks will be correct.

The district transitioned from its old payroll system to a new system, Oracle, at the end of January.

Officials say there have been dozens of errors with uploading employee retirement, fixing deductions, correcting extra payments, and sending employees checks if they did not get one.

Related: Gaston Co. Schools approves COVID retention bonus, discusses payroll issues at Board of Education meeting

WBTV first reported on the payroll transition in February as the district transitioned to the Oracle system with the help of online technical support company CherryRoad Technologies.

NC State Treasurer Dale Folwell says he is disturbed by the ongoing issues and that the company needs to fix them as soon as possible.

“The focus is on not only getting the payroll right but also getting the pension stuff right and we are still several, several months behind and this really impacts people’s lives,” Folwell said.

As of Thursday, GCS says that it is still working to successfully upload the June contribution files into the ORBIT retirement system. Officials say the June file was rejected multiple times but once it is fixed, they will work on uploading the July, August, and September files.

Officials also sent about 100 paper checks to employees affected by the September payroll, which the district is now calling a “global issue.”

Folwell clarified that the money for the retirement is not being held up at the Treasurer’s office and to his understanding, it is in Gaston County.

“It is my understanding that the money is still sitting in Gaston County, but as I said earlier there are two issues going on here. One - is to get the salary and paycheck correct and the second part is to get the pension credit done. We are not “sitting on any money” at the Treasurer’s office as far as Gaston County is concerned.”

Last month, WBTV obtained copies of emails from N.C. State Representative Kelly Hastings on regarding the payroll issues in Gaston County Schools.

Related: N.C. state representative shares email confirming Gaston Co. Schools was advised to wait on transition to new payroll system

One of the emails was sent from a fiscal analyst within the NC General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division to Rep. Hastings and his research assistant in early September. The email stated that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction advised the school district not to move forward with the transition in January.

NC State Representative Donnie Loftis also shared the communications from NCDPI along with his outreach to state officials to get answers on the payroll issues.

North Carolina Association of Educators Vice President Bryan Proffitt was with GCS employees in September when they held walk-ins and demonstrations demanding accountability and corrected payments.

“Why are they continuing to have business why is the district continuing to work with them if they haven’t solved the problem? If the problem isn’t with the company then who in the district needs to be held accountable,” Proffitt said.

The district originally planned to transition to Oracle in July 2021 and delayed it until January 2022. WBTV obtained financial reports from NCDPI showing that other districts including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Cumberland County Schools are slated to transition to Oracle with the vendor CherryRoad Technologies in 2023.

WBTV previously reported Guilford County Schools was scheduled to start using Oracle and CherryRoad Technologies in 2023 but learned Wednesday, that Guilford County Schools mutually terminated its contract with CherryRoad Technologies.

GCS says the customer service team is up and running and has already visited 21 schools and plans to visit all 56 schools by the end of October.

NCAE is also working either legal counsel and is prepared to take action to support the employees affected by the payroll issues.

“They’re still on The table thinking about what’s the best path and how do we get not just what our members need but everybody who is working in the district needs,” Proffitt said.

WBTV requested an updated statement from the school district Thursday and received the following.

Representative Hastings told WBTV he spoke to Gaston County Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Booker earlier this week about another matter and says Booker told him the district is working on corrections and improvements.

“I certainly hope for a positive resolution, and it is my understanding that the state superintendent’s staff and the treasurer’s staff, as well as others, are working to find solutions,” Hastings said.

“We continue to work to resolve issues that resulted from the September monthly and bi-weekly payrolls and other known issues. This month, we will have a payroll specialist from Oracle on-site as well as support from an off-site team from Oracle that is tasked with focusing on Gaston County Schools. The specialist and support team will assist with correcting outstanding issues, including issues related to excess deductions, longevity, withholdings, etc,” a spokesperson from the district said.