LAUSD Payroll Problems Continue

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The Los Angeles Unified School District's new payroll system came online a year ago and it continues to issue incorrect paychecks, though not as many as before. Administrators say the fixes they ordered months ago are working. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez visited the help center at district headquarters on Monday.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The help center is on the first floor of L.A. Unified's 28-story building in downtown Los Angeles. The loudest noise comes from a television tuned to soap operas.

Fewer than a dozen people sit and wait their turn for assistance. This room bulged with 400 angry people for two days after the November payroll, says L.A. Unified payroll operations specialist Wanda Washington.

Wanda Washington: We had been staying very late into the evening, making sure we served everyone. And there were times we were here until 11 o'clock, whatever it took to get it done. And now we're able to go home at a decent hour.

Guzman-Lopez: Payroll workers at each school site are doing a better job, Washington says. The school district's spent tens of millions of dollars to fix the problems. But the $95 million payroll system is still churning out erroneous paychecks.

They include school district electrician Anthony Carr's. Last year he was too sick to work. He says the district is trying to recover $15,000 it says it overpaid him.

Anthony Carr: My dilemma is unlike any other teacher's. I did not even work in the year 2007.

Guzman-Lopez: Carr says his supervisor emailed Superintendent David Brewer details of the problem, but no response came. Soto Street Elementary counselor Irma Herrera says she spent three hours at this help center last month.

Irma Herrera: Because I didn't receive a paycheck for the month of November. I don't know how that's going to affect my taxes, so that's another question I'm going to have to ask.

Guzman-Lopez: In recent months, L.A. Unified's Chief Operating officer said he's aiming for a payroll error rate of less than 5%. Last month, it was less than 2%. In a mammoth school district like L.A. Unified, with 85,000 regular employees, that still affects a lot of people.