‘A nightmare:’ GCS educators share concerns over W-2 paperwork as paycheck issues continue

Staff from the payroll system Oracle are working onsite to address issues
Gaston County Schools employees are growing weary as paycheck issues continue and they inch closer to the end of the year.
Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT

GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - Gaston County Schools employees say they are growing weary as paycheck issues continue and they inch closer to the end of the year.

“Honestly the longer this goes on the harder it is to believe it’s going to be fixed,” said veteran elementary school teacher and Gaston NCAE President Pam Miller.

The school district sent an email to employees Wednesday night regarding updates on the ongoing payroll issues including issuing refunds for Educational Partners International (EPI) teachers who had extra FICA and retirement deductions, correcting summer pay rates for nutrition staff, adjusting longevity pay for employees who did not receive it in July, and updating classified employees that their pay increases were entered into the payroll system - this pay increase is paid retroactively to July 1.

Click here to see the October presentation from the school district’s finance department.

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.

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.

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

“It’s just very unfortunate that our school system has not been able to get this solved so people are not stressed and panicking while we’re trying to educate children, feed children, transport children, or keep their school clean,” Miller said.

The school district has sent hundreds of paper checks to employees and recently launched a customer service program. As of Wednesday, the district says a team of individuals has visited 36 schools and plans to visit all schools by the end of October.

Veteran high school teacher Amanda Parker is frustrated and feels the updates aren’t promising.

“We have to tell them our problems which are not just retirement, it is overpay, underpay, the deductions are a nightmare and I do not see how this is going to be fixed by January,” Parker said.

Several employees tell WBTV they are also concerned about their W-2 forms and how their pay will be reflected on them since dozens of them have either been overpaid, underpaid, or had extra deductions.

“I have no idea how this is going to be fixed and if it’s not, our W-2′s are going to be an absolute nightmare and the IRS does not care,” Parker said.

One employee told WBTV her taxes have not been taken out of her biweekly pay since the end of January and she’s fearful she will owe more money due to the payroll errors.

Gaston NCAE President and veteran teacher Pam Miller says many employees she’s spoken to have the same concerns.

“We have a lot of people who have been overpaid, and well that’s going to put them in a completely different tax bracket and they’re going to get hammered if their W-2 is not correct,” Miller said.

As of Wednesday, the district says it is still trying to successfully upload the June retirement file into the ORBIT state retirement system.

“It has been submitted to the ORBIT state retirement system on several occasions, but it has not yet been accepted because of errors. Once the June file is accepted, we will submit the July file,” the school district said in an email.

Parker says she is fearful the delay in retirement file uploads will affect her ability to retire next year as she planned.

“If it’s not fixed I won’t be able to retire, I mean I won’t be able to retire or if I retire I won’t be paid on my thirty years of retirement,” she said.

On October 13, WBTV reported Guilford County Schools was transitioning to Oracle and CherryRoad Technologies in January 2023 but received an email from Guilford on October 19 stating it ended its contract with the software companies on October 14.

“Our project with CherryRoad was paused in December. The letter to mutually terminate our statement of work is dated October 14,” said the spokesperson from Guilford County Schools.

Last month the Gaston County Schools Board of Education approved a $3,000 retention bonus and a $1200 bonus for Pre-K through fifth-grade teachers who are doing state-mandated LETRS training; both bonuses were paid for with federal COVID funding.

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

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting school board member, Robbie Lovelace proposed an idea for a restitution package for every employee affected by the ongoing payroll issues.

“For us to let our employees know how important this is, I personally think that each month the employees had an incorrect check they need to be given financial compensation for that and additional compensation for each recurring month that this was not taken care of until the checks can be rectified,” Lovelace said. “First and foremost I know we have to fix Oracle first.”

Many educators tell WBTV they believe a restitution package is needed, but they’re not hopeful about it coming together as they are still battling current payroll issues.

“The school system really owed us for all of the stress, heartache, and hardship they have put their employees through,” Miller said.

“I mean clearly it would help, but at this point, no one thinks it’s actually going to happen, but clearly it would be nice,” Parker said.

This is a developing story.