Wilkinsburg schools report more costly bookkeeping lapses

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A completed audit of employee sick days in the Wilkinsburg School District shows that employees reported off on 346 days this year but their absences were never recorded, a total that equals about $102,000 in unused sick pay.

In addition, a review of the district's health insurance payments has revealed it overpaid about $18,000 in insurance premiums for employees who left the district but were never taken off the rolls during the past year.

And, some retirees are receiving bills for their share of some $30,000 in overpayments the district made to their insurance plans.

These details were discussed at the board's finance committee meeting Wednesday, during which business manager Phil Martell also said the district is being audited by the Allegheny County Health Insurance Consortium.

Mr. Martell said he believes the insurance overpayments prompted the audit.

School districts in Allegheny County purchase their health insurance through the consortium.

"Some retirees are getting bills from us, and they are not going to be happy. But we have to try to recoup this money," Mr. Martell told the committee.

Also making repayment to the district are current employees who took sick time they were not entitled to. "If they didn't have the days, I have docked their pay," said Ramona Pope, a consultant hired by the district to help with human resources and business office functions.

The employees “are starting to get the message that someone is watching," she said.

Last month, Ms. Pope reported that she had found 215 sick days that were not recorded, but had not finished her audit.

Ms. Pope said she will now start sick day audits of previous years.

Mr. Martell said it was the responsibility of the human resources office to record the sick days and to handle health insurance premiums for employees. He did not know why the issues weren't handled.

Human resources director Andrea Williams has been off on sick leave at various times since January and full time since March 28.

The overpayments in retiree health benefits happened when retirees changed their plans to increase their benefits. The district provided the enhanced benefits but did not increase the retirees' contributions to reflect the new benefits. The district will give the retirees a year to make the repayments.

School director Karen Payne said the board asked several years ago to have retiree benefits audited but it wasn't done until now.

Last month, finance committee chairwoman Debra Raubenstauch said the sick day audit was started after the board noticed the high number of employees taking paid leaves and after a resident in January questioned the $29,260 payment for more than 400 unused sick days to former superintendent Archie Perrin when he retired last year.

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