Editor's note: This story was corrected to show annual savings from the new pay arrangement.
HARRISBURG — Saline County Board voted Jan. 25 to move payroll processing to Saline County Treasurer Jeff Murrie’s office due to ongoing payroll problems. On Thursday, employees received their first paychecks processed by the treasurer’s office.
“It was not my decision, it was the Saline County Board’s decision with the backing of State's Attorney Jayson Clark,” Murrie said.
Commissioner Joe Jackson, chairman of the budget committee, said the board moved payroll from the office of County Clerk Kim Buchanan to the treasurer’s office, knowing that that office will get payroll out in a timely manner.
“We voted as a board to remove (Buchanan) as a payroll officer,” Jackson said.
County payroll and its processing have been a source of employee complaints and grievances for months. Employees have complained that they received post-dated checks that banks would not honor, especially when payday fell on a holiday or weekend, benefit deductions were incorrect or pay itself was not correct.
On Nov. 28, Saline County Board passed Ordinance 17-138, which spelled out the way paychecks should be dated and distributed on county paydays, which are the 15th and 30th of each month. The ordinance says paychecks should always be dated and distributed on a weekday, pay is to be dated on the last business day prior to payday that falls on a weekend or holiday, as well as how to correct overpayment or underpayment, and addressed other issues.
When paychecks went out Dec. 29, they were dated Dec. 30, a Saturday. Some banks cashed the checks a day early, but others did not. Peoples National Bank sent its customers a memo saying they do not accept post-dated checks.
For Murrie’s office, adding payroll means adding a whole lot more work.
“It means that we’re having to do all the payroll for 106 to 108 employees, figure all deductions for insurance, pensions and things like that. We’ve had to open new bank accounts. All I did before was signing checks and telling how much money to put into what account,” Murrie said.
To make matters harder, Murrie did not get much help from the county clerk’s office. According to Jackson, Buchanan would not release information from her server that would help Murrie with payroll, even after the county board voted to move payroll to Murrie’s office.
“That’s willful noncompliance,” Jackson said.
Buchanan says processing payroll is mandated to her office by state statute.
“They can only take over payroll if I relinquish my duties,” she said.
Buchanan has an opinion dated Nov. 20, 1991, that says a county board cannot assign other personnel to a function which is delegated to a county clerk by statute. The opinion was written to a case in Morgan County that had to do with record keeping by the clerk, in this case voter registration records, and claims against the county.
“My employees really weren’t excited about doing payroll because it is a lot of work. I have an employee who has learned a lot, and she’s doing a great job,” Murrie said. “Out of all county employees, 99 percent are very happy about the way my office handled payroll.”
He added that processing payroll in his office will save the county money in the long run because they were paying a company $17,000 to $18,000 a year to do the processing.