Wednesday, March 03, 1999

Calendar quirk a bonus for state workers


1 extra pay period during budget year

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Ohio taxpayers will pay state employees an extra $158 million next year, but it has nothing to do with pay raises or the Y2K computer glitch.

        Blame the state calendar for this one.

        Due to a once-every-decade quirk in the state's payroll schedule, state employees will receive an extra paycheck during the budget year that be gins July 1.

        There will be 27 pay periods during the year, up from the usual 26.

        The additional costs portend a public relations headache for Gov. Bob Taft, who imposed a limited hiring freeze on his first day in office and pledged to curb state spending during his term.

        “We don't have an alternative,” Tom Johnson, director of the state Office of Budget and Management told The Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday. “As far as we're concerned, it's something we have to do to keep the state running.”

        With less than two weeks remaining before Mr. Taft unveils his first two-year state budget proposal, state agencies have been told to expect a 4 percent increase just to cover the extra pay period.

        Some agencies will have higher payroll costs even though they employ fewer people, Mr. Johnson said.

        Most businesses won't face the same problem because they pay their employees on the 15th and 30th of every month, rather than every other week as does the state.

        Indeed, the state could avoid the payroll quirk in the future if it changed the way its employees are paid. But nei ther Mr. Johnson nor the largest state employees union has considered altering the pay schedule.

        The extra money won't show up on end-of-year tax forms received by state employees.

        There still are 26 pay periods during the normal calendar year, which the IRS uses for tax purposes.

        “It's a fluke, but it doesn't mean much for us in the long run,” said Peter Wray, spokesman for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. “We'll be back to 26 pay periods the next year.”

       



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