Billie Salas, Manager (27 years with M&O, manager 8 years) 10 employees
The Support Services Department is responsible for the administration of Budget Management; Invoice and Payment Processing; Contract Administration; and Utilities Management.
Support Services personnel provide support to all M&O service departments to enable them to complete their work orders/projects in a timely manner utilizing budget availability processing. In serving this purpose they work in close collaboration with the M&O Executive Director and Department Managers as well as personnel in APS’ Finance, Procurement, and Accounts Payable offices in overseeing M&O’s fluid budget balance, expenses, and daily finance operations. Budget sources consist of Operational funds and Senate Bill 9 funds. The management of Operational monies is straightforward as it pays for the fairly predictable salaries, services, materials, equipment, fleet fuel, and District wide utilities. However, administering SB-9 monies, used to underwrite contractor services and related materials and equipment, requires much more artful and vigilant strategizing. Operational funds are allocated annually with no carry-over options. SB-9 monies, created in the 1990s by voter approval, are replenished after each funding cycle and unspent dollars in the current fiscal year are carried over to the next fiscal year.
Ms. Salas works closely with M&O Managers in earmarking budget funds as specifically as possible for anticipated large projects and unforeseen but certain emergencies, approximately 35% of the budget. This astute planning requires the keen awareness by all M&O Managers of funding restraints in setting priorities to meet the District’s most demanding needs within budgetary boundaries. In addition, Ms. Salas reviews all M&O invoices daily and approves for payment (in accordance with procurement rules and procedures) before forwarding to APS’ Procurement and/or Accounts Payable Departments for final processing. In support of the education process, Support Services strives to process vendor invoices promptly as a gridlock in the APS payment system impedes work projects at schools. Frankly stated, unpaid vendors cease serving the District which is unacceptable as it is not in step with M&O’s non-stop service to the schools and students.
As the following figures exemplify, the Department was challenged by a major budget cut in 2011 and since then by limited budgets just holding steady in the most recent fiscal years. The battle isn’t helped by rising maintenance and utility costs coupled with the opening of new schools and expansion of existing campuses.
M&O Budget HIstory 2007-2014
(Total M&O Budget Allocation Includes “Carry Over” SB-9 Monies from Previous Fiscal Years)
Increased number of “drawdown” purchase orders (PO) by 31.9%
A drawdown PO formally earmarks a specified dollar amount to pay for recurring or expected expenses to specified vendors as needed during the fiscal year. Paying invoices against the single PO rather than issuing separate purchase orders for transaction payments, reduces the number of requisitions waiting for approval, purchase processing steps, and time. The Department has been on a quest to move to the simpler drawdown PO practice for some time, making progress with every year. Support Services achieved the most success in the 2013-14 fiscal year — 190 PO encumbrances were created, 31.9% more than the previous year’s 144. Payments to vendors are fast tracked and closing financials at the end of the fiscal year is streamlined. The Capital Fiscal Department is credited for their help and cooperation with the M&O budget.
Cross training of personnel successfully completed
Last year’s Report addressed the imminent challenge of losing three tenured employees due to retirements. In anticipation of this combined loss of skill and knowledge, the Manager initiated a cross training program Department wide. While additional in-depth cross training is still in progress, all staff members have learned every transaction process and duty that the Department is responsible for. Two positions were vacant for several months and were covered by the newly cross trained staff members; a backlog of work did not ensue due to the reduced number of employees! And as personnel learned a new process, they became permanently reassigned to the task broadening the scope of responsibilities for all staff.
Three highly qualified staff members joined Department
In replacing the vacancies left by retirees, Support Services was able to hire proficient individuals who complemented the skills set of existing staff. The new hires began their new roles near seamlessly.
New Utilities Management Technical Assistant is competent and zealous to learn
One of the three new hires mentioned above is the Utilities Technician charged with tracking and paying the utility expenses for the entire District. It sounds straightforward enough, but staying abreast of the hundreds of utility invoices generated by 140 plus metro area schools and urban school sites, numerous administrative complexes, warehouses, Central Kitchen, and three sports stadiums is no simple task. The utility vendors for electric, natural gas, water/sewer (utility and wells), refuse, and recycling are many and their invoicing systems can be complex with many variables affecting each invoice’s total. Appreciatively, the new Utilities Technician brought valuable research knowledge and other skills from previous experience within APS and was able to get up to speed in the utilities function quickly as well as learn the Manager’s tasks in serving as back-up when needed. She has proven to be an invaluable asset to the Department in both areas.
Smooth beginning of six year funding cycle
While Support Services personnel certainly perform many financial closures in preparation for commencing a new funding cycle without snags and complications, all M&O financial activity is not within their control. The beginning of a fiscal year or funding cycle will expectedly require getting over some hurdles and stumbling blocks. The start of the six year funding cycle that began on July 1, 2013, however, went without a hitch thanks to careful planning and executing of financial matters within the Department and interconnected APS Capital Finance and Accounting Divisions.
Status of 2013-14 Fiscal Year Goals
- Meet with M&O Managers in securing their encumbered requests for the 2013-14 fiscal year before July 1. Managers will be required to be very specific in the amount of each vendor’s purchase order (within each Department’s budget) in meeting their needs. Completed
- Hire and train a new Utilities Technician and fill two other vacancies due to retirements. Completed
- Cross train personnel to become adept in all Department functions. Currently only one staff member knows the utilities management function and newer employees need to be knowledgeable and thoroughly trained regarding all APS/M&O policies and procedures. Support Services will operate more smoothly and effectively, thereby serving all of M&O better. Completed
- Due to the Department running out of file space, staff will began scanning all invoices and store them electronically once they are paid and closed as well as scan old invoices stored in filling cabinets. Because APS Accounts Payable recently faced and completed the laborious task, M&O’s Support Services can now easily and quickly find any vendor payment information online (password assessable). While the project can’t be completed in fiscal year 2013-14, it will commence. Planning has begun. See 2014-15 Goals.
2014-15 Fiscal Year Goals
- The scanning of all invoices for electronic storage (note above goal) will be well worth the time intensive
effort when completed, but as the task is daunting, it will be approached methodically beginning with a
pilot program in one area of the Department. This will allow the Manager to get a better understanding of
what will be involved and plan accordingly in organized stages. Additionally, acquiring at least one more
scanner will be necessary.
- Create drawdown POs for utility expenses.