School Cafeteria Worker Told to Repay $23K Payroll Error

Christie Payne not the only employee to learn she owes Chilton County Schools money
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2022 1:00 AM CDT
School Cafeteria Worker Told to Repay $23K Payroll Error
Stock photo of a school cafeteria.   (Getty Images)

During the 2016–17 school year, Christie Payne was promoted to cafeteria manager at a school in Chilton County, Alabama. She still works in that position today, but according to, someone in the district payroll department recently noticed a longstanding error: When Payne was promoted, she was wrongly credited with years of experience as an assistant, which put her in a higher pay bracket. As a result, she has been overpaid exactly $23,460.40 in the past six years, and the district wants every penny back.

An exasperated Payne shared the letter she received from Chilton County Schools on Facebook, along with the plea "Anyone have the answer?" It states she has one week to file an objection or agree to one of three options: She can repay it in a lump sum, have $326 deducted from every paycheck for six years, or make an annual payment for six years. If she fails to comply, she will be assessed an additional monthly penalty of $254. Payne insists it’s not her fault. “I called payroll when I received the letter. They acted like I did it,” she told “I work in the lunchroom. I only know about food and lunchroom duties. I don’t know anything about the payroll department.”

Apparently, Payne is not alone. separately reports a Chilton County Schools teacher received a similar letter a few days later, this one demanding almost $33,000 in overpayments made since she was hired in 2018; she had worked as a school nurse for the 12 years prior. While he would not comment on specific personnel matters, Chilton Superintendent Jason Griffin said the district is required by law to recoup the overpayments. Tracy LeSieur of the Alabama Education Association—which is arranging lawyers for the two overpaid employees—suggested these are highly rare cases, calling them "the first two of this type of overpayment that I’ve worked with." (Read more Alabama stories.)

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