Alabama school cafeteria manager overpaid by $23K; district seeks repayment

CLANTON, Ala. — An Alabama school lunchroom manager said she was notified by district officials that she must repay more than $23,000 in salary after a payroll mistake caused her to be overpaid since the 2016-17 school year.

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Christie Payne, a child nutrition manager at Verbena High School, said she received a letter on April 12 from Chilton County Schools outlining the alleged overpayment and a plan to pay back the money, WIAT-TV reported.

“A review of financial records reveals that you were overpaid by the Chilton County Board of Education,” the letter said.

“I need help,” Payne wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “Just received this in the mail. Had no idea this was happening. Now I have seven days to fix a six-year mistake made by (the) payroll department.”

Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin warned in the letter that Payne would face a $254 per month penalty for every month the $23,465.40 error “is not taken care of,” AL.com reported.

“The employee went from assistant manager to manager,” the letter said, according to WBMA. “The employee should have started at step 0 or the manager schedule but was given years of experience as an assistant.”

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The letter gave Payne three options to repay the money -- $325.91 monthly for 72 months, $3,910.90 annually for the next six years, or pay in one lump sum, WIAT reported.

“I called payroll when I received the letter. They acted like I did it,” Payne told AL.com. “I work in the lunchroom. I only know about food and lunchroom duties, I don’t know anything about the payroll department.”

Griffin declined to comment about the issue on Thursday.

“Due to employee privacy issues, Chilton County Schools will not be commenting on your inquiry,” Griffin wrote in an e-mail, according to WIAT.

WBMA went to the Chilton County Board of Education offices on Friday and was told that Griffin was not in the office.

Tracy LeSieur, the Alabama Education Association’s UniServdirector for District 13, has been in contact with Payne.

“I met with the employee this morning, and we filled out the proper paperwork and are gathering all the documents that will be sent to the AEA legal department and they will review it and assess it,” LeSieur told WBMA.