Jan 22, 2024 - News

Durham Public Schools says it won't take back overpayments

Illustration of a dollar made out of chalk on a chalkboard being erased

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After a specially-called meeting Monday, the Durham Public Schools' board apologized to the community for an accounting error that led to more than 1,000 workers being overpaid for months and pledged to not make workers return the extra money.

Driving the news: The apology, which was accompanied by a promise to investigate the cause of the error, comes after the school told workers their pay raises had been too high and would be eliminated.

  • DPS has said it miscalculated years of service when giving out raises last year, leading to some workers being overpaid.
  • In response, workers have been sporadically skipping work leading to disruptions at the school system, including canceled bus routes.

Why it matters: Many DPS workers had made significant financial decisions around their pay raises, and the elimination of the salary increases caused widespread anger among the classified staff affected by the decision — many of whom work in maintenance, groundskeeping or in cafeterias.

What's next: In a statement Monday, DPS Board of Education Chair Bettina Umstead said the school system will find funds to cover the overpayments through the end of January.

  • "We have asked the administration to identify sufficient funds … that will allow employees to keep all pay received through December 31, 2023, and to be paid at the same rate for January 2024," she said in a prepared statement.
  • Umstead said the board was committed to finding solutions to how the school system applies years of service in its compensation plans.

DPS did not field additional questions from the media but said it will provide an update at its regularly scheduled board meeting on Thursday.

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