The school business manager is owed $86,000 for unused vacation, half of which was recently paid by the town in an effort to correct ongoing accounting problems in the department.
Wellesley Patch has confirmed that School Business Manager Ruth Quinn Berdell was given a check for $43,000 representing nearly 16 weeks of unused vacation pay which she has carried over during the course of her 26 years of employment with the town.
The payment was calculated based on her current rate of pay which is $139,750 annually, according to town records.
She had a total of nearly 32 unpaid vacation weeks, representing 156 days, so she will receive a second check for $43,000 next year.
A second school department employee whose name has not yet been released, was also paid approximately $15,000 in unused vacation pay.
The payouts come after town officials told school officials the town can no longer continue to carry the unfunded liability from year to year, according to School Committee Chairwoman Suzy Littlefield who said she has been aware of the situation for several years and has been working with the town’s Audit Committee over the past year to rectify the situation.
“This was a previous policy that she was allowed to rollover vacation,” Littlefield said. “This is something that happens when you have outdated policies.”
Littlefield said the policy of allowing school employees to carry unused vacation days from one year to the next will no longer be allowed.
But according to Littlefield, Berdell had been allowed to forgo vacation by the current Superintendent Bella T. Wong and by past superintendents.
A message left with Wong’s office was not returned last night. A person in the business office referred all calls for Berdell regarding this issue to the superintendent’s office.
“She (Berdell) is legally owed this money,” Littlefield said, adding that if Berdell left the position tomorrow the town would have to pay the whole sum.
“I am working hard to improve the business office service to the schools and to the town,” Littlefield said, adding that the power of the elected school committee over employees lies only in hiring and dismissing superintendents. All other school employees fall under the direct supervision of Wong, her administrators and department heads.
“We have been in conversations with the superintendent about our expectations for the business office,” she said.
Littlefield said she has heard from several people in town and has reached out to people concerned with the problems in the business office including issues with and inadequate systems in place to account for an estimated $6 million in athletic, transportation, preschool and other fees paid to the school department.
“This is my top priority,” she said.
Town Hall employees work with a “use it or lose it” policy regarding vacation pay, and are not allowed to roll over unused days from one year to the next, according to the town’s Finance Director Sheryl Strother.
She said in extenuating circumstances employees may apply for a waiver to carry no more than 10 days of vacation pay over for one year with formal approval from the town’s Human Relations Board.
Union employees such as police officers and firefighters fall under rules negotiated under their collective bargaining agreements, which may differ from the town’s policy.