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At least three Chilton County School employees now being asked to pay back salary

WBRC Chilton Co. overpay folo
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 10:09 PM CDT
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CHILTON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - WBRC has learned there are now at least three Chilton Co. School employees who’ve received letters saying they were overpaid by the school district.

AEA representative Tracy LeSieur said the third is a bus driver and received a similar letter to the other women in January saying he was overpaid by the district. We are working to learn more about his situation. But, WBRC is also learning more about Shellie Smith, who is the second employee to come forward about receiving a letter.

LeSieur said Smith started as a nurse for the district, but became a teacher in 2018 and her pay allegedly wasn’t inputted correctly in the system, just like the first employee to get a letter.

“She was not aware that it wasn’t the correct amount until she received her certified letter,” LeSieur said. “I don’t know if a salary schedule was presented to them or if it was just ‘this is what you’ll make in this position and they said okay.’ In both cases it was a raise.”

LeSieur said for lunchroom manager Christie Payne, the pay scale is different as a support staff employee. Her letter said that she owes more than $22,000.

“They don’t have a state salary matrix and they are paid locally and that is all locally decided,” LeSieur said. “In Chilton County, they pay the teachers the state matrix. Depending on years of experience and from the letters these two employees have received, it states they were paid for experience in that position that they didn’t have.”

But, for Smith, her salary is determined by the state.

“The state funds so many teachers per school depending on numbers,” LeSieur said. “So, the district reports to the state ‘I have a teacher with 11 years experience and her Masters Degree and according to the state matrix this is what she makes’. So, if she is a funded teacher, the state then sends the district that money for her salary.”

AEA attorney’s are reviewing documents from the employees cases to see if they are legally responsible to pay back the money. LeSieur said it could depend on when the district was last audited and if they were looking for payroll discrepancies.

“Depending on when the last audit was done and what they were looking for, going through everybody’s personnel records and years of experience and matching pay scales. I don’t know if that was done or I don’t think it was done two years ago, because I don’t think it would take two years to bring this to the attention of the employees.”

LeSieur said they don’t know if anymore employees were overpaid, but she is suggesting making sure your paycheck matches up to your pay agreement.

“Pull up their paycheck, look at their gross pay, match it to their years of experience,” she said. “See that it matches the salary schedule of their individual district.”

WBRC reached out to the Alabama Department of Education to learn more about how frequently schools are audited and for a comment on the case of these employees, but did not hear back.

Update: In a recent statement from Chilton County Board of Education, “We cannot comment on specific personnel matters. The Chilton County Board of Education recently discovered several overpayments. These overpayments date back several years, and were initiated prior to the tenure of the current Finance Department, Superintendent, and Board. Under Board policy and the law, board officials are required to recoup any overpayments.

We are mindful of the financial impact that this matter can have on our employees, and we are working to balance that impact with our obligation to recover the funds.”

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