Employee paychecks and direct deposit

by April Mabry

Q: Can a district require direct deposit of employee paychecks?

A: Districts may not require employee paychecks be deposited directly into a bank account. Although direct deposit is an acceptable method of payment and the most popular means of delivering pay, employees must be given a choice to have their pay directly deposited into a bank of the employee’s choice or to be paid with some other negotiable instrument, such as a check.
Some employers use payroll or debit cards to pay employees who do not have bank accounts. This method is another option for distributing payroll as long as employees also have the choice of receiving a check. Districts that provide payroll or debit cards must ensure employees are not subjected to fees that would effectively reduce their pay. Any fees charged by the bank or financial institution should be paid by the employer.
Whatever method is used, individuals cannot be required to establish an account with a particular financial institution.

Recognizing trends in HRIS

by Patti Ellis

In May 2017, TASB HR Services launched a new survey, Human Resources Information System (HRIS) Features and Capabilities. The purpose of the survey was to gather information to better understand trends and opportunities within Texas school districts, specifically pertaining to HRIS.

How districts are using HRIS

The survey asked participants which of the following areas of functionality the district is using within their current HRIS:
  • SBEC link to track certification
  • DPS interface for background checks
  • Application tracking system connection
  • New hire uploads
  • Task tracking and management
  • Employee self-service
  • Reports for analytics
  • Dashboards for central office staff
  • Employee performance management
  • Contract renewal

Of the districts that responded, 18 percent indicated the district did not have any of the listed functionality in place. A majority of districts indicated their HRIS links with SBEC to track certification (62 percent) and interfaces with DPS for the background check process (64 percent). The other listed functionalities were not being used by many of the respondents, ranging from response rates between 17 and 33 percent for each remaining functionality.

Of all respondents who used at least one of the listed functionalities, on average, districts utilized three different features. Metro area ESC Regions had the highest average utilization at around five different features. As expected, as enrollment groups increased, so did the average use of functionalities.

How districts are getting help with HRIS

As districts run into issues with their existing setup or wish to begin the process of implementing a new feature within the HRIS, there are many resources for assistance and guidance. According to the survey, districts appear to equally use internal experts (e.g., HRIS Specialist); a representative from the HRIS vendor; and manuals, FAQs, or online training tools. Very few respondents look to an external expert, such as a consultant, for assistance.

Most HRIS vendors offer a variety of options for learning more about how to use the system and maximize its functionality, so getting help is often a click or phone call away.

How districts retrieve requested information

When districts receive data requests from TASB HR Services related to annual salary surveys or contracted services (such as staffing reviews and compensation studies), 52 percent of respondents indicated they are able to pull the data from a single source, while 26 percent gather data from multiple sources, and 13 percent manually track data.

District successes

TASB spoke with several districts about their experience in maximizing functionality with HRIS. An overwhelming trend in responses reflected the importance of communication, both within the departments implementing new technology and with stakeholders using the new features.

Socorro ISD (SISD) noted their biggest challenge was acceptance of change and getting everyone invested in the concept for improvement. SISD’s advice on how to prepare for a successful implementation is to ensure all teams responsible for implementation are aimed toward the same established goals.

Director of Human Resources at Allen ISD (AISD), Kelly Mires, has seen the district move to near paperless processes in the past 17 years. AISD set up its contract and letters of reasonable assurance process so that all are prepared, sent, signed, and returned electronically.

Along with maximizing HRIS functionality, AISD has integrated new technology with the HRIS so that duplication of efforts is reduced and information is not being entered multiple times.

The district also prioritized efforts according to the goal for that particular year, ensuring the HR team took on little projects at a time and didn’t bite off too much. The district recognized that implementing new technology took more than just one department, and so worked closely with their software vendor and the technology team.

Sharon Roy, chief HR officer, and Amy Broaddus, facilitator of human resources, said Tyler ISD makes a concerted effort each year to think big, while remaining realistic.

“Retention starts with the recruitment process,” Roy said. “With the changes the team has made over the years, someone can apply in the morning, be prescreened and interviewed by the end of the day, and recommended for hire by the next day.”

The efficiency of having the workflow and communication completed electronically makes this possible – there is no more tracking individuals down for a physical signature. 

To make sure leadership and employees are well-informed, the HR team communicates in advance what new features are coming and provides step-by-step instructions with screenshots (sometimes providing seminars and webinars for additional support) to ensure users are able to make the most of the new functionality.

For Roy, it’s about surrounding yourself with people who have a meaningful understanding of what technology can accomplish. Regardless of technical skills, you need to have people who understand the value of technological advances and possess the mindset to spark the start of that journey.

Learning more through the survey

Participants in the survey have a unique opportunity to learn about the types of efficiency and tools an HRIS may be capable of providing. Additionally, participation opened up the possibility of connecting with other districts who have successfully maximized efficiency within their district through HRIS. If you haven’t yet participated in the survey and wish to, you can access it within the HR Reports section of DataCentral.

TRS-ActiveCare changes for 2017–2018

by Troy Bryant

After much anticipation, the 85th Texas legislative session ended with no bills passed affecting TRS-ActiveCare.

Without a mandate from the Legislature, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees approved new 2017-2018 TRS-ActiveCare rates, but made no sweeping changes to the health benefit program as had been presented in a 2016 ActiveCare Affordability Study. The new rates resulted in an overall 8.1 percent average premium increase.

TRS-ActiveCare PPO monthly premiums increased between 1.9 percent and 25.5 percent over last year’s premiums. The most popular plan, ActiveCare 1-HD, is $351 (2.9 percent increase) for employee-only, up $10 from last year, while the rate for employee and family is $1,316 (6.9 percent increase). The newest plan, ActiveCare Select, is $514 (6.2 percent increase) for employee-only and $1,589 for employee and family (16.8 percent increase). ActiveCare 2 remains the most expensive plan—$714 (10.7 percent increase) for employee-only and $2,004 for employee and family (25.5 percent increase). New rates will go into effect on September 1, 2017.


The chart reflects rates for employee-only coverage for all three TRS-ActiveCare plan options since 2003. ActiveCare 2 rates were mostly steady from 2003 through 2008 but have increased every year since 2008.

Although ActiveCare 1-HD has only been around since 2009, its monthly premium increased almost every year except for 2014 and 2016; and ActiveCare Select, only available since 2014, has increased its monthly premium every year since its inception.  
Individual and family in-network deductible amounts did not change for ActiveCare plans, but higher out-of-network deductibles were implemented for ActiveCare 1-HD and ActiveCare 2 (ActiveCare Select does not allow out-of-network services).

The required health care contribution remains $75 per month per employee from the state and $150 minimum per employee from districts, unchanged since TRS-ActiveCare was implemented 15 years ago. To learn more about current district contribution amounts, insurance premiums, and cost sharing arrangements visit DataCentral and take our Health Insurance Premiums survey.

TRS introduced TRS-ActiveCare on September 1, 2002, and currently, nearly 500,000 employees and dependents participate in the program. Across the state, 1,222 districts and entities are eligible to participate, and 90 percent of those participate in TRS-ActiveCare.


HR Extras

Bill watch—Special session and teacher pay

A teacher pay raise of $1,000 is one of the items Governor Abbott placed on the special session agenda. The special session will convene July 18 and run for a maximum of 30 days. At the time of publication, a specific bill has not been filed.

For districts that have already adopted their compensation plan and budget for 2017–2018, our guidance is to not revise anything in anticipation of the special session.

For districts who have yet to adopt their compensation plan and budget for 2017–2018, there are a few things to consider. Legislative language in the past has required districts to provide the state-mandated increase over and above the prior year’s teacher pay structure/hiring schedule. While we don’t know whether that language will be proposed again, it’s a possibility. There’s no guarantee that any changes to teacher pay will result from the special session, and the timing of any changes that might happen could be too late for a district to reflect in their initial 2017–2018 budget.

There are very specific budget adoption deadlines that districts are subject to, as described in these eSource documents. Based on time constraints, a district may choose to adopt their 2017–2018 budget, then revise as needed to meet requirements arising from the special session. Methods for revising budgets and compensation plans exist and we will provide details at a later date, should there be a need based on the outcome of the special session.

Districts may also consider contacting their local counsel for more specific guidance moving forward, relevant to their unique circumstances.

We’re working with other groups like TASA and TASBO to advocate on behalf of district needs to legislators during the special session. We’ll keep our members updated along the way, too.

Superintendent Salary Survey launches in July

In less than one month the 2017–2018 HR Services salary survey season begins with the launch of the TASB/TASA Superintendent Salary Survey. It kicks off July 18, when an invitation to the online questionnaire will be e-mailed to school district superintendents. The survey goes into detail on the compensation and benefits of Texas’ top school executives. The survey deadline is August 25 and results will be available in DataCentral in October.
The schedule for our other salary surveys is below. Survey reminders will be included in upcoming issues of HR Exchange and sent to survey contacts in your district.
Survey Invitation Date Due Date DataCentral Results
Teacher / District Personnel 9/5/17 10/6/17 12/4/17
Extra-Duty Stipend 10/24/17 11/17/17 1/29/18