School district wants teachers to return part of their paychecks

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PHOENIX -- Dozens of teachers in the Phoenix School District are seeing less money in their paychecks this month and it has nothing to do with budget cuts.

Because of a communication breakdown in the district's new payroll system, the teachers were paid for days they didn't actually come to work. They'd called in personal days.

The district now wants that money back, which could leave many teachers with a paycheck of zero dollars.

"On March 27, the human resources department is going to take out the amount of $1,027," Tani Hough said.

The news sent Hough into panic. That much money taken out of her paycheck would leave the South Mountain High School teacher with less than $100 until her next paycheck in two weeks.

"Rent's due, car payment's due, food -- I have about $50," she said.

The overpayment stems from a problem with the district's new absence monitoring system.

In July, the Human Resources Department went live with a new business system and there was an error that they discovered and that that error was an overpayment.

The district did an audit and discovered it had overpaid people throughout the whole year.

Teachers in Phoenix can have total of 12 absences throughout the school year. Two are given immediately and the other 10 are accrued over the 10-month school year -- one day off per month worked.

The system failed when it began paying teachers for days off they hadn't earned.

Teachers should keep track of their days off, but Hough says sometimes that doesn't happen.

When the district demanded Hough pay back the thousand dollars immediately, Hough said she tried to work out a payment plan.

"Every time I get the same answer, 'We're not in the business of loans and we expect immediate payment," Hough said.

That's when she turned to 3 On Your Side for help.

"They shouldn't take out the entire amount from one paycheck, you know, it was an error over the whole course of the year and it was their error," Hough said.

What makes her mad the most is that the district wasn't willing to work with her.

"It's sad to see they're taking out the human aspect of who I am and what I do, that I'm part of the district, that I'm a human, and I have a son at home that I have to take care of," she said.

3 On Your Side contacted the Phoenix Union High School District, which says it will allow Hough to pay off the money over a couple paychecks.

In a statement, the district spokesperson admits, "The new business system, which includes payroll, has not been able to track absences and personal days in a timely manner. We will meet with the employee to accommodate this particular situation over more than one paycheck. We have returned to the original way of monitoring leave days."