Monday, November 11, 2013

KIRO 7 District Budget Investigations

Here's the first story, overtime pay for exempt employees and sick leave pay out.

More to come.

27 comments:

Patrick said...

Getting a cash out for unused sick leave is normal for public employees. KIRO is right that it's unusual in the private sector, but private sector generally has much higher base pay and/or bonuses that public employees don't get. A large sick leave balance is a protection against loss of salary during an extended illness. It's also very normal to save up lots of sick time and then cash it in when leaving public employment, like the principal they talked about. Smart employees don't cash it in until they're sure they won't be using it, such as when they retire or leave that employment.

KIRO is quite right, though, that salaried and management employees shouldn't be getting overtime. Any such payments should be rejected by payroll. Or use SPS cars for commuting. Lord.

I hope this doesn't hurt McEvoy. It doesn't sound like it's her fault, and she's doing a pretty good job in a very difficult situation. This would be a really bad time to try to hire and train someone to take her place.

mirmac1 said...

Quite ironic that Carr frets about possible claim$ for Mann delays, but did not move to make policy changes in response to this audit, presented to her committee, to potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think the Board and staff should worry about ALL cost savings. I note that the Superintendent recently said in his Friday update that the adm was down to 5% but I honestly doubt that figure. (I would guess people have been moved around.)

There is not an "if" to the Mann claims - it's a how much. Every single BEX Committee member agreed on this last Friday morning and let Director Peaslee know that when she asked if the contractor "had" to choose to file a claim. The contractor will.

Jon said...

There is a simple solution to district administration corruption: Cut district administration in half, and push more responsibilities and budget down to the principals.

Everything central administration does should be judged against whether it helps more than having that salary go for an additional teacher. The question before hiring or maintaining any position in the central office should be, "Does this help kids more than a teacher?

Jon said...

This is a great report, by the way, and everyone should watch it if they haven't yet. It is excellent investigative reporting by KIRO. It is fantastic to see KIRO doing it, and it would be great to see KUOW, The Stranger, and Seattle Times doing more investigative reporting on Seattle Public Schools as well.

mirmac1 said...

Yes Melissa I know construction claims. I'm just sayin', at Carr's upset (and report to the SAO) of a potential $2,500/day delay or rent loss - it would take 3 years to add up to the $2.8M in the KIRO report.

mirmac1 said...

Internal Audit Report

We are lucky to have Andrew Medina as the watchdog.

Anonymous said...

Someone please correct me if this is wrong, but from reading the report on KIRO's web site, doesn't all this appear to point to HR? Didn't the Center School debacle point to HR? Isn't HR where a lot of the rot begins? If this is wrong, I hope someone will hasten to correct me.

-- Ivan Weiss

mirmac1 said...

i think most of this mess falls in Payroll whick is Accounting, which is under Kathie Technow. i understand she's temporarily filling in for Ronic Lorio, who was THE MAN for audit response and did a great job.

Crownhill said...

Well, you have to look a little more carefully at those numbers to really see that KIRO inflated the problem (quelle surprise). Several of the names called out as having high OT numbers, only have a few hundred for 2013 - which is really the first year that McEvoy banned the practice. KIRO presents a 3 year total to make it headline worthy - there's only a few people who actually deserved the calling out.

And yes, Ms. McEvoy is ultimately, for many of those people the place where the buck should stop - someone had to "approve" the overtime right?

One more point - and I do have a bit of "insider" knowledge - there are a few people on that list who were literally forced to work more hours rather than SPS hiring another FTE to realistically manage the workload. Poor management is not the blame of the employee - it's the blame of the manager and on up the food chain.

Throw your arrows where they are deserved.

Crownhill said...

And Patrick is right re: sick leave and public employees - it happens with State Agencies all the time when you get to your threshold - use it, or lose it and/or buyout, though I think that's more often vacation rather than sick leave - been a long time since I worked for the State,

mirmac1 said...

Point taken Crownhill. I've looked at the SAO work papers for the Fed audit, however, and the HSGI grant misuse was dirty.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac-

Payroll just implements what the employee's supervisor approves. They have no authority or control in this situation. So, please understand departments' authority before posting remarks calling out people.

LH

Anonymous said...

Anyone know what the Hale Radio Station Manager got $70,000 in overtime on top of the $80,000 salary? Does that mean the manager was working 80 work weeks? Or are they paid time and half which would make it a 60 work week? Was this just for one year? Maybe for the tower upgrade year?

HP

mirmac1 said...

Excuse me LH but "internal controls" implies an organizational structure that has a means to detect and prevent fraud and waste. For that to happen, there should be multiple levels of review and approval - not, say, some loose cannon signing off on salary increases for the ex-Native American program manager, for example, or someone charging Athletic directors to the high school graduation initiative, or other such "irregular" practice.

Some years back there was much ado made about excessive sole-sourcing of personal service contracts. Has that really changed? No, it's just that staff files a mea culpa form when they either: a) have work begin before work is signed; or b) swear up and down NOBODY is more capable than so and so to do such and such. In the case of PSCs, there is an acctg staffer who goes after administrators who still hand out contracts like candy. They gripe and moan about why what they did wasn't really so bad. I don't think he gets any support for the diligent job he does.

Likewise time and effort reporting has been a constant audit finding. It's not that hard - a staff person promptly fills out a time sheet and a manager promptly approves it (all accurate of course). I understand managers like Marni Campbell, who was too busy not leading Special Education, would be hounded by other staff to sign off on T&E reports. But WTH, she didn't have to do anything some low-level staff person asked for, to hell with audits!

If this district values internal audits and effective corrective action, then they would hire staff who are independent and have the authority to make things happen.

mirmac1 said...

HP,

2011 - $29K
2012 - $28K
2013 (partial) - $12.5K

joanna said...

Exempt employees should not be getting overtime. The sick leave buyout seems reasonable and should be applied to all empolyees. There is a lot of room for abuse here and especially when the rules are not the same for each employee in the defined group. Overtime is usually approved before hand.

I agree that the sick leave buyout is normal for public employees as part of the use of lose it practice, of course that is limited to whatever was available and whatever wasn't.

Charlie Mas said...

Sick days are bought out at 25 cents on the dollar. A bargain.

Anonymous said...

Jon,

"Excellent investigative reporting." Seriously? I think it was rather sophomoric myself. At least half of the report, especially the reporting of sick leave cash outs, was nothing more than fodder for people who already dislike SPS employees. Like someone else here said, the district (and taxpayers) get a bargain when the cash out is $.25 on the dollar. Not to mention students benefitted from having their regular teacher instead of a substitute.

Not a fan of KIRO's Enquire type sensationalizing....

mirmac1 said...

Anonymous,

You'll be deleted if you do not pick a two word moniker.

Screeds like Kiro7 have their place. If there weren't auditors and inquiring minds, where would we be right now? Letting MGJ (or whomever) paper the file with vaporous "reforms" and "systems in place"?

The "populists" will take accountability in whatever way, shape, or form.

KG said...

Seattle Schools could not manage their way out of a paper sack, and we trust them with 600 million dollars?

Anonymous said...

REPOST

Thanks fir the heads up Mirmac.

Jon,

"Excellent investigative reporting." Seriously? I think it was rather sophomoric myself. At least half of the report, especially the reporting of sick leave cash outs, was nothing more than fodder for people who already dislike SPS employees. Like someone else here said, the district (and taxpayers) get a bargain when the cash out is $.25 on the dollar. Not to mention students benefitted from having their regular teacher instead of a substitute.

Not a fan of KIRO's Enquire type sensationalizing....especially since they don't bother reporting how much overtime SPS staff does on a routine basis. Unpaid I might add.

SLP

Melissa Westbrook said...

I get that there are some people who work overtime and don't get paid. A lot of people in the private sector do that as well.

But the issue was who was getting paid overtime and why. I'm confused why the manager of the radio station would get overtime for three years in row. I'd like to understand why that is.

Jet City mom said...

If I was so inefficient at my job that I needed overtime routinely, I expect I would be shown the door and replaced by someone cheaper.
Does that ever happen in sPS?

Anonymous said...

Overtime is cheaper than paying benefits and salary to a second employee. That's why industry and not just the public sector pays out so much in OT. While I always liked OT in my previous jobs, working constant OT in some jobs can wear pretty thin.

Anonymous said...

Overtime is cheaper than paying benefits and salary to a second employee. That's why industry and not just the public sector pays out so much in OT. While I always liked OT in my previous jobs, working constant OT in some jobs can wear pretty thin.

not anonymous

Anonymous said...

The biggest waste is the structure of the budget itself. SPS spends $12.5K per student per year ($640M/51K students), and yet many schools only get $6-7K per student per year. Yes, some of that overhead -- busing, etc. -- is useful and necessary, but much of it should be cut and sent directly to schools.

The question with every dollar should be, "Would this be better spent in the classroom?"