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Amanda Talbert, McLennan County human resources director, outlines her budget requests for fiscal year 2016 to county commissioners on Thursday.

McLennan County’s human resources department is set to receive upgrades after commissioners Tuesday approved some of the new director’s budget requests, while also noting the current payroll system’s illegality.

County Auditor Stan Chambers said the current payroll system effectively loans money to employees, which is against the state constitution.

County employees are paid twice a month. But time sheets are due the same day paychecks are issued, so if an employee took time off during that pay period, it would have to be accounted for on the next paycheck, making the first paycheck essentially a loan, which Chambers said is illegal.

The issue came up when Human Resources Director Amanda Talbert requested more than $170,000 for a countywide timekeeping system.

Commissioners have been meeting with department heads to work toward finalizing the fiscal year 2016 budget, which must be approved by Aug. 31.

Talbert said each department tracks employees’ hours differently. Most departments are manually filling out time sheets and submitting them, and then that information is entered into another program so payroll can be processed, she said.

Commissioners agreed that the new system has merit, but said they needed to meet with department heads and elected officials to see if they would use the program before approving its purchase.

Commissioner Ben Perry said he expects the process of time sheets being due the same day people are paid to change by the start of the 2016 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Perry said commissioners will meet with the auditor’s office about how to transition employees from one payroll system to another.

“I understand where Stan’s coming from. It’s not the cleanest way from an accounting standpoint to do payroll, but I do not agree that it’s illegal,” Perry said. “It’s a gray area.”

Chambers said after the meeting that his comments during the meeting may not have been properly worded.

“When it really becomes a problem is if that was their final paycheck and now they’ve quit or been fired, and we have to go back and try to get money from a person, well, we no longer have a payroll to deduct from,” Chambers said. “And a lot of times, they tell us, take a hike. Then we’re faced with, ‘Do we sue them over it, when it was really an administrative error?’ And the decision’s been made frequently — it would cost more to get $300 back than it would to let it go.”

Also at the meeting, commissioners put off deciding whether to grant Talbert $150,000 for a talent-acquisition system.

Talbert said the county manually handles advertisements, recruiting efforts and applications. The system would automate the process for the county and increase the productivity and effectiveness for applicants and department heads, she said.

Perry said the county has only a 1 percent turnover rate, and he is not sure the program’s cost would be worth it in the end.

More than $10,000 was approved to increase Talbert’s professional development fund from $700. Talbert said $700 does not begin to cover training courses.

“What makes up your workforce and what really makes you strong is your employees,” she said about needing training capabilities.

Supply requests

Talbert also requested more than $45,000 in supplies. But by the end of the meeting, commissioners approved only more than $27,000 of that. Included in her requested supplies was more than $11,300 for a multifunction copier, $3,500 for countywide compliance posters, $2,000 for a job fair display system and $350 for a tablecloth, among other things. Perry said he did not support the purchase of the tablecloth.

“I didn’t understand the purpose of it,” he said.

Talbert also submitted personnel requests, but those were not addressed Thursday. She requested a new position, which, if approved, would bring her staff to four full-time positions and one part-time position. She also is seeking raises for her employees.

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