Luzerne County administrators are seeking an outside company to handle a range of payroll duties, though they’re not sure if all the services will be needed.
Daily payroll processing was included in the solicitation because the lone employee handling payroll has been out six weeks for health reasons, and it’s unclear if or when she will return, county Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz said Monday.
Carl Lisowski, a former county auditor, had warned county officials they may be in a bind when he was furloughed in January because he provided back-up payroll processing assistance.
Swetz said he and his budget analysts have been handling payroll the past few weeks, but the work is pulling them from essential duties. The outsourcing won’t be pursued if the worker returns, but the administration must explore options in case she does not, he said.
The payroll coordinator loads payroll information from the county’s computerized time clock system into the financial software program and ships it to department heads for verification before paychecks are issued. This employee also must enter data into the system when employees are hired or leave and when they change tax deductions, addresses and where their checks are deposited, Swetz said.
Interested companies must submit proposals by Wednesday.
The solicitation also was intended to figure out the cost to hire someone to help the county synchronize pay periods, he said. All 1,400 full-time county employees are paid on the same day every two weeks, but about half receive checks for time not yet worked.
“I think we have six different calendar periods to calculate pay. It is just an absolute nightmare,” Swetz said.
Former county Controller Walter Mitchell had urged county officials to correct this inherited past practice last year. He suggested withholding pay for prospectively paid employees — with significant warning so they can prepare — during a month when there are three paydays. The entire workforce should be paid on the same schedule for time already worked, he said.
Swetz said payroll management companies have more experience with this type of conversion, and he does not want his staff sidetracked from budget monitoring, audit preparations and the reviewing of outgoing payments.
The request for proposals says responding companies must be equipped to set up an electronic timekeeping system, but Swetz said this has nothing to do with the county’s time clock system.
A separate request would be necessary if the county wants to switch to a different time clock system, he said.
The county’s has paid more than $700,000 to date to purchase and maintain a biometric time-clock system from Chelmsford, Mass.-based Kronos Inc. Prior commissioners approved the purchase in 2010.
The county’s maintenance contract with Kronos expires the end of this year. Officials would have to determine if conversion to another system is worth the expense and time, he said.