Billie Salas, Manager
(28 years with M&O, manager 9 years) 10 employees
The Support Services Department is responsible for the administration of Budget Management; Invoice and Payment Processing; Contract Administration; and Utilities Management. The Department Manager collaborates with the APS Accounts Payable and Finance staff, the M&O Executive Director, and the seven other M&O Managers in overseeing the accuracy of funds loaded in and expenditures paid out of M&O’s annual budget comprised of Operational funds and Senate Bill 9 (SB-9) funds. Operational monies are used to pay for services, materials, equipment, fleet fuel, and District wide utilities. SB-9 resources, created in the 1990s by voter approval and reloaded annually, are used to pay for contractor services and related materials and equipment. Insightful management of SB-9 funds is Support Services’ principal objective.
Ms. Salas watchfully coordinates with M&O Managers in earmarking budget dollars as precisely as possible for projected services, materials, and equipment provided by contractors and vendors, generally for anticipated sizeable projects. It is imperative that these monies are reserved so that M&O can remedy the District’s most critical needs without classroom interruptions and within budgetary restrictions. Setting monies aside, approximately 35%, for unforeseen breakdowns and issues is equally important.
In accordance with procurement rules and procedures, staff first reviews and Ms. Salas then approves all of M&O’s invoices prior to forwarding to APS Procurement and/or Accounts Payable for final processing. Support Services personnel endeavor to process invoices without delay as holdups in the APS payment system cause the ill-fated domino effect of work falling behind schedule, unhappy customers, added costs, and can even adversely impact student programs.
Fortunately, the Department benefits from very little turnover. Cross-trained veteran employees continuously perfect systems and procedures, becoming ever more heedful of accurate and efficient expenses processing. As the following budget history demonstrates, the District increases in size every year while the monies to maintain expanding existing campuses and new schools don’t keep up.
M&O Budget History 2007 – 2015
(Total M&O Budget Allocation Includes “Carry Over” SB-9 Monies from Previous Fiscal Years)
Continued trend of increasing drawdown purchase orders (PO)
A drawdown PO specifies a total figure that a vendor’s invoices for recurring or expected expenses will draw down upon during the fiscal year. Several years ago the Department started moving away from issuing separate purchase orders for transaction payments which has significantly reduced the number of requisitions waiting for approval, paperwork processes, and time. Since the new drawdown system was initiated in the 2012-13 fiscal year, drawdown POs have increased 72.9% (144 to 249), with 31% occurring in the last (2013-14) FY. Vendors are paid more promptly and closing financials at the end of the fiscal year is streamlined. Support Services personnel and the Capital Fiscal Division staff quickly recognized how tracking invoices and payments was greatly expedited.
Two employees trained to assist with utility payments
The Utilities Management Technical Assistant (UMTA) responsible for scrutinizing and paying the District’s utility invoices (electric, natural gas, water/sewer—utility and wells—refuse, and recycling) has been exclusively skilled to perform the function. This left no backup for the position when she was out on vacation or sick leave, as well as no assistance in carrying out the multifaceted function. The various and numerous utility vendors’ invoicing systems can be knotty as many variables influence each invoice’s total, all too often incorrectly increasing the amount due. Two staff members were trained in analyzing assigned utilities’ invoices and processing them through SchoolDude’s Utility Direct program. The UMTA now has sorely needed on-going assistance and utility invoices are no longer held up in her absence.
Utilities Management Technical Assistant (UMTA) began a utility/meter audit
As mentioned above, paying the District’s utility invoices is anything but a clear-cut process, illustrated by APS’ utility expenses in 2014- 15 exceeding $20.2 million! Accurate invoicing (and payments) is made even more complicated by the extensive campus rebuilds and remodels constantly in development whereby meters can be added, changed out, and even entirely removed. Utilities have mistakenly charged APS incorrect rates, especially for new installations or for meters that no longer exist. To certify that meters are correctly located, functioning properly, and that readings correlate with invoices, the UMTA began drafting a plan to audit utility meters. (See 2015-16 Goals)
No needed budget transfers made for a smooth transition to new fiscal year
Having the option to transfer budgeted funds from one designated use to another is certainly helpful, but to not need to makes for much more favorable financial management. Budget transfers are not only cumbersome in that they require many reviews, approvals, and signatures; they can also muddy the transition from one fiscal year to another. Support Services personnel collaborated efficiently and ahead of schedule with other M&O departments as well as with Procurement and Finance personnel in accurately earmarking funds, therefore avoiding the need for budget transfers. The rollover of purchase orders also transitioned without a hitch and the total M&O budget was loaded on time. (Waiting for budgeted monies at the start of a new fiscal year can also present issues.)
Status of 2014-15 Goals
- Scan all invoices (past and present) for electronic storage. Process started and will gain traction with every year. As many invoices are received by email (versus hardcopies received by U.S. Mail) the process has been made easier, but is nonetheless laborious.
- Create drawdown POs for utility expenses. Completed, six created.
- UMTA to conduct a utility invoice audit comparing invoices to the District’s hundreds of utility meters. It is an arduous task but important in not unknowingly overpaying utility expenses. The effort, however, was made much less difficult due to the recent utility meter audit conducted by FD+C whereby every functional, malfunctioning, and obsolete meter was identified and recorded in a “mapped” database.
- Create a 2015-16 BSR Credit Listing by vendor separate from the drawdown purchase orders. This process will still allow the Department to track/monitor credits without affecting the matching encumbered balances between the BSR and Lawson. Credits from vendors for returned merchandise and returns are common throughout M&O departments. These credits have resulted in incongruity between the M&O financial database (BSR) and the District wide financial database (Lawson). When invoices are entered into Lawson, they are deducted from the allocated balance. However, when a credit is entered, it changes the encumbered balance in the BSR but doesn’t affect the Lawson PO balance. All credits in Lawson are applied against the vendor, not the PO. As a result, it has been necessary to manually calculate credits at the close of every fiscal year and request a revision in matching Lawson’s balance to the penny to automatically close the PO. The BSR Credit Listing by vendor will track entered credits, by design, which is invaluable information as it enables Support Services personnel to view true, matching PO balance(s) between the BSR and Lawson databases. It will then be a simple revision in matching Lawson to the necessary penny. The new protocol will also avoid duplicate invoices or taking a credit twice. Support Services has reduced duplicates by over 95% over time and this new program will address the remaining 5%.