The Novopay payroll debacle could financially cripple
some schools, forcing them to close, if something is not done
quickly, principals across the country are warning.
Green Island school principal Steve Hayward said he was aware
of a primary school in Otago where a staff member had been
overpaid by about $10,000 and now the school was broke.
He said schools received funding from the Ministry of
Education four times a year, which was used to pay for its
operations, including support staff wages, school supplies,
heating, water, power, rates, and rubbish removal.
When staff were overpaid, it meant more money came out of a
school's bank account than had been budgeted for, he said.
Schools were also attempting to help teachers who had been
underpaid, by providing the balance out of the same accounts.
''Once that quarterly funding is gone ... If you have $10,000
taken out of your account unexpectedly, what happens? And who
fixes it?'' Mr Hayward asked.
''If I was a small school that didn't have any money and you
had a caretaker that was overpaid by $10,000, it surely must
impact on the viability of the school.
''They would have other bills to pay. It's all very well
saying the ministry is going to reimburse us, but how can you
do that when you ring them on the phone and they don't
answer?''If it's not fixed quickly, schools may not have the
finances to continue operating.
''It's a very real concern - schools can't operate without
Ministry of Education workforce group manager Rebecca Elvy
said the ministry was ''absolutely committed'' to making sure
schools were not financially disadvantaged by overpayments
made from school funds.
''Any school that is in this position should get in touch
with us and we will support them while the debt is being
recovered,'' she said.
New Zealand Educational Institute national secretary Paul
Goulter and New Zealand Principals' Federation president Phil
Harding agreed the issue was causing major problems.
Mr Harding said it could take ''weeks or months'' to be
reimbursed by the ministry, and if the situation continued,
it could become a ''major problem''.
Mr Goulter said there were other indirect costs of the
Novopay problems, such as paying staff for working overtime
to make corrections to the payroll.
''The ministry should start coughing out money now to
compensate the schools for the costs to them,'' Mr Goulter
Carisbrook school principal Ben Sincock said school closures
would be at the extreme end of the scale, but agreed the
Novopay situation was putting stress and financial pressure
He believed the ministry would have to ''step in'' before
schools got into financial hardship: ''They couldn't afford
to let schools close because of this debacle.''
Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Brent
Russell said Novopay had now become nothing more than a
''We're beyond commenting on Novopay now. Novopay is a lemon,
it doesn't work and it's not fit for purpose - it's beyond a
''Someone needs to make the hard decision and can it. They
should let schools do their own payroll.
''Frankly, we know the staff and what they are entitled to.
It's not rocket science.
''The time being spent on it at the moment could be better
spent doing it ourselves - correctly.''