In these tough times of budget reductions resulting from costs increasing at a faster rate than revenue, we look at best practices to help streamline our business operations. One such program is one of MSBO’s products and services – PaySchools.
Recently, our PaySchools application hit a milestone – topping $1 million in accumulated purchases! My district implemented PaySchools in the fall of 2008, in an effort to provide parents with a convenient way to make payments toward student activities and fees. In 2½ years time, we have collected over $1.1 million on the sale of over 27,000 products. As I reflect back on these past 30 months, three main themes resonate with me: the program’s popularity with parents, improved internal controls for the district, and more efficient accounting.
Parents Love PaySchools
Parents love the convenience and ease in paying for school activities and fees using PaySchools. Many are paying their bills online already, and they love the convenience of this application. I continually hear positive feedback from parents about this program, especially with regard to payments on school lunch accounts.
We have worked with PaySchools to integrate with our food service student account program. This integration allows parents to make payment directly to their children’s school lunch accounts, view account balances, and even set up an automatic email when the account balance drops below a pre-determined threshold. We’ve set up the integration to perform automatic backups to our school lunch software multiple times daily, so when a parent makes a payment, they can see the account balance updated online within a few hours. School lunch account payments have accounted for nearly 20,000 of the 27,000 transactions in my district.
Improved Internal Controls
One of the selling points of the PaySchools application for our staff is the reduction (or complete elimination in some cases) of money handling by club sponsors, coaches, teachers, secretaries, and other staff. Dozens of staff members have been granted rights to run sales reports in PaySchools for their respective categories of products, so they can run lists of students who have paid for their activity online. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the handling of cash and checks by staff, which has improved the school district’s internal controls. One such example is the annual 8th grade Cedar Point trip at our middle school, where more than 250 students take this trip annually. Prior to the implementation of PaySchools, the two lead staff members would collect nearly $20,000 in cash and checks from students and chaperones, handling large sums of money and making frequent bank deposits. We have completely eliminated the money handling component of this activity by requiring payments using PaySchools. Funds are directly deposited into the district’s bank account, and the activity fund is credited for the online sales. The staff members simply log into PaySchools and run periodic sales reports to update their student rosters.
We have seen similar results with activities for other activities, such as our band/orchestra boosters, cheer team, and student fines.
More Efficient Accounting
PaySchools deposits each day’s sales via batch direct deposit to the school district’s bank account. Each product in PaySchools is established with a corresponding general ledger account code, and each day we run an Account Code Report for the previous calendar day’s sales. From this daily report, a single cash receipt is entered into our accounting system, and the funds hit the district’s bank account within two to three business days from the date of sale. This single daily cash receipt records what previously was recorded on dozens of individual cash receipts in the school buildings. This has reduced cash receipt handling throughout the district.
In addition, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the quantity of checks returned from the bank due to non-sufficient funds. We occasionally experience a PaySchools transaction reversal, due to insufficient funds; however, this is very infrequent. For example, in the past ninety days, only nine of the 5,017 PaySchools transactions have been returned for insufficient funds. Our experience has been that very few people will submit payment using electronic funds if they don’t have the funds in their accounts to cover.
The integration of the PaySchools application in my district has been one of our easiest and most successful implementations. It has enhanced the customer service to our parents, while improving internal controls and accounting in my district. PaySchools is an excellent example of the high quality products and services offered by MSBO.