Hammond School Board member pushes panel to correct overpayment

2012-05-14T22:40:00Z 2012-05-15T00:41:28Z Hammond School Board member pushes panel to correct overpaymentBy Carmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | A Hammond School Board member challenged her fellow board members to have the courage to correct overpayment to district support staff.

Cindy Murphy said Monday night preliminary reports indicate several support staff among more than 300 have been overpaid by $250,000 this year and last year for a total of half a million dollars. Murphy said the board initially found out there was an overpayment among support staff, particularly those in the bilingual department, in mid-February.

In addition, an Indiana State Board of Accounts audit, covering July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2011, and released a few months ago, focused on overpayments to support staff.

Quoting from the state audit, Murphy said: "It appears that the bilingual education department operates outside the policies and procedure as set by the administration. It is unclear why the bilingual education department is allowed to continue to not adhere to the school corporation's policies."

While Murphy said the board needs to take steps now to correct the problems, board members did not discuss the issue or act on it.

As a result of the state report, Hammond School Superintendent Walter Watkins said an independent payroll review of every employee in the district, including himself, would be conducted. The school system hired Accountemps to do the payroll review.

Watkins said the report still has to be summarized and presented to the board. "We won't know until maybe the end of the week what the final figures are," he said.

After the meeting, Hammond School Board President Deb White said the board wants to be as transparent as possible, hence the payroll review. She said she did not know where Murphy got the figures from and the other board members were taken by surprise.

"We will take the results of the review and make the appropriate adjustments," she said. "We have a cost containment committee that is looking at the budget for this year and next year. They will be making a recommendation to us. I know we will have to make some reductions. I don't know how deep they will go."

Morton High School teacher Debra Ekdahl, who is also a Portage Township Schools board member, asked about the inflated salaries among support staff and said there was talk of teacher layoffs in Hammond.

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