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SF school district staff went unpaid. Their payroll company may get millions more

Staff members protest the ongoing payroll troubles at Dolores Huerta Elementary School in San Francisco on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. | Courtesy Cynthia Lasden | Source: Courtesy Cynthia Lasden

The San Francisco Unified School District is looking to put another $5 million into the very same payroll system that has been wreaking havoc on staff paychecks for over a year.

A $5.1 million increase to the original contract with vendor Infosys is up for approval at a special school board meeting on Tuesday. That’s in addition to the $16.5 million the district already paid the company—plus another $8.8 million to another consultant, Alvarez & Marsal, to improve staff payroll and address the crisis. 

“We need to be a school district where people can count on us delivering on operations so we can focus on education,” said Superintendent Matt Wayne in a statement on Monday. “Setting our sights on operational excellence in the district means that we are able to turn our attention back to our students and running schools instead of whether our paychecks are accurate.”

Since the full implementation of EMPowerSF in January 2022, employees have seen underpayments, canceled benefits, tax errors and delayed retirement contributions. Last week, the district said that a reporting error would impact 2022 tax filings and returns but did not yet confirm if it had to do with the payroll system.

Labor unions blasted that latest mistake. Like the United Educators of San Francisco, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) demanded personalized tax consultation for staff by the first week of April.

“We demand that the District acknowledge its gargantuan mistake in rolling out the EMPowerSF payroll system prior to fixing all of its problems and, even more importantly, implement immediate solutions,” Rafael Picazo, president of SEIU’s school district chapter, said in a statement late last week.  

Though the case volume has significantly dwindled, the cost to make a dent has come at a premium. 

The $8.8 million contract with consultants Alvaraz & Marsal was expected to last through May, until the district could address errors and train staff. But SFUSD also put out a bid for temporary human resources staff in February and is seeking additional help from Infosys this week. 

Instead of a fixed contract as it previously had with Infosys, SFUSD said it will only pay for tasks that have been completed.

One team would be dedicated to solving the 66 known defects and making another 20 needed fixes or new requirements, according to a staff report to be presented on Tuesday

The Standard has reached out to Infosys for comment. The Board of Education will vote on the amended contract on Tuesday at 555 Franklin St. starting at 6:30 p.m.

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