Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Payroll changes worry university workers

Some employees at North Dakota's public universities are worried they may need to borrow money to make ends meet when a new payroll system begins.

Some employees at North Dakota's public universities are worried they may need to borrow money to make ends meet when a new payroll system begins.

Leaders of ConnectND have proposed all campuses adopt a semi-monthly payroll schedule for salaried and hourly employees by July 1, 2004.

ConnectND is a $31 million effort to upgrade North Dakota's administrative computer system.

The new payroll schedule would pay employees twice a month, with an eight-day lag period between the end of the pay period and receiving their checks.

ConnectND officials say the lag period will allow for more accurate reporting of salary and benefits.


But startup of the new schedule will result in a delayed first payment to salaried workers, leaving some to wonder how they'll pay their bills.

Valerie Larson, a secretary and staff senate member at North Dakota State University, said the reaction from staff has been "pretty negative." She and her husband both work at NDSU.

"A lot of our bills are electronically done now right after payday," Larson said. "It'd be a big change for some of us."

NDSU President Joseph Chapman said he believes the schedule will be revisited.

"I've not had anybody on campus tell me they're in favor of it, mainly because of the lag period associated with it," Chapman said.

Salaried workers at all state universities except the University of North Dakota are now paid on the last day of the month. UND employees in Grand Forks and Williston are paid on the 15th and last working day of the month.

To address concerns about the lag period, ConnectND has recommended a one-time salary advance be made available to employees.

Details of the loan program haven't been finalized, but discussion has suggested a no-interest loan paid back over a six-month period, said Ellen Chaffee, president of Valley City State University.


VCSU and Mayville State University are pilot sites for ConnectND, and will begin the new payroll schedule July 1, 2003.

"The big issue, of course, is to help people examine their own finances and make a smooth transition," said Chaffee, who sits on the ConnectND Executive Steering Committee.

Minnesota's university system switched to a semi-monthly payroll in the mid-1990s.

Employees are now paid after a 10-day lag period, and the system has been "absolutely wonderful," said Miriam Ward, who works in human resources at the University of Minnesota.

"This has just given us a common language, a common set of dates and times," Ward said. "Everybody knows when payday is."

Still, there was heavy opposition from employees before it was put in place, she said.

"They couldn't imagine this new environment, and they were all certain they wouldn't be able to pay their rent or something like that," Ward said.

Employees were offered an interest-free loan equal to one pay period, to be paid back through payroll deductions over three years. Many employees -- including some who weren't facing financial hardship -- took advantage of the loan, and some even invested it, Ward said.


In the end, she said, the change was a non-issue.

"After such a long period of time of people talking and having meetings, when it happened, it was fine," she said.

The North Dakota Office of Management and Budget is expected to make a decision Nov. 15 on changing its pay schedule. The OMB currently pays salaried employees on the first of the month and is considering four payroll options, including the same eight-day lag schedule as the universities.

If the state chooses a different schedule, the ConnectND steering committee may revisit its schedule, Chaffee said.

ConnectND has written a question-and-answer paper about the payroll changes. It can be viewed online at http://www.nodak.edu/connectnd/repository/development/payroll_Q&A.pdf .

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

What To Read Next
Get Local