PEPPERELL -- The implementation of a new payroll system will increase efficiency and promote better recordkeeping among town employees, said Town Administrator John Moak.
Moak said the town's new payroll systems features three major changes -- outsourcing much of the payroll work, switching to a bi-weekly pay period and implementing computerized time and attendance records.
The first two policies went into effect on July 1, and while there have been some minor issues, Moak said he believes the gains in efficiency will make up for any difficulties in transition.
"People were doing a lot of work on payroll, and it was very time consuming. I thought we could use that time more effectively," Moak said.
Moak's own observations about time lost on payroll work, combined with recommendations from the Department of Revenue and the town's auditors, spurred the change.
"When the DOR came in to do their report, the first thing they said after half a day of being here was that our payroll was way too time-consuming," he said.
Moak said passing off most of the work to Harpers Payroll Services, and doing payroll bi-weekly instead of every week, have given those who are responsible for payroll more time to focus on other tasks.
"A lot of the bookkeeping work was being jammed into the time that they didn't do payroll. We think bookkeeping should be the major function for those people," he said.
The timing of the change led to some problems because salary increases went into effect the same day as the new payroll, Moak said.
A gradual roll-out of the changes in pay period confused many employees, as the town did a three-day and seven-day pay period before switching over completely to try to soften the blow for employees who were used to being paid weekly.
However, Moak said the issues were minor, and things are going more smoothly now.
The computerized time and attendance records, which will go into full effect in October, will provide even more benefit, Moak said, by allowing employees to track their hours online. Any changes in an employee's time sheet will automatically be audited to make sure the changes are approved by both the employee and the department head.
"We can make it easier for department heads, and easier for employees, to make sure they're getting paid for the time worked."
Hourly workers who are eligible for overtime will use time clocks that allow them to track the sort of work they are doing. Moak said this will help the town track the cost of different jobs, which will help in figuring out budgets.
The time and attendance system will also allow employees to request vacations electronically, so that supervisors can plan out in advance their employees' vacation schedules.
The system will also track available sick days and vacation time.
Keeping track of these changes will allow for detailed record-keeping and fewer mistakes.
"One of the most important things is that it leaves an audit trail for everything," he said.
Many surrounding towns have not implemented a computerized time and attendance system, Moak said, because some workers have complained that it is being done because their supervisors don't trust them to accurately report their hours.
However, he said this hasn't been a problem in Pepperell.
"We're doing it to be as helpful and accountable to them as they are to us," Moak said.
"We want to make sure it's as efficient as possible and as accurate as possible on both sides."
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