Little more than a year ago, headlines were made when the Santa Barbara School District sent out nearly 200 paychecks well short of their intended dollar amounts followed by the immediate and sudden resignation of then–payroll director Patricia Voigt. In the subsequent investigation and audit by the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Team (FCMAT), the district was found to have a wickedly derelict payroll system, rife with a wide variety of problems.
Now, despite assurances from district officials that such problems have long since been remedied, thanks in part to a new payroll coordinator hired last winter and a new system brought on line this summer, it appears the problems have returned. Taking to public comment during Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Paul Rooney with the California School Employees Association, who represents the school district’s classified employees, testified that a “large number of employees” were shorted up to $600 on their last paycheck sent out on September 30, and, to make matters worse, the district has been slow in responding. “Why do we have to beg to be paid in the same manner that we have been paid in the past?” questioned Rooney.
Eric Smith, the district’s deputy superintendent and chief fiscal officer, explained last week to The Santa Barbara Independent — after allegations of a new payroll snafu first surfaced — that the problems were not actual money shortages, but rather that things like vacation time and sick leave totals had simply not been printed and thus distributed with the checks. However, Tuesday night after testimony from Rooney and actual classified employees who were on the receiving end of the short paychecks, Smith offered simply, “We are investigating the matter now.”