Across the country, K-12 schools are embracing technology to strengthen learning and engagement inside the classroom. But while technology has an ever-increasing presence in the classroom, the opposite is often true when it comes to a district’s back-end operations.

Due to aging systems, many accounts payable (AP) departments within school districts still rely on manual, legacy, or proprietary systems to perform critical functions like expense and invoice submission and reimbursement. This lack of automation and visibility into their expenses can end up costing a school district more in the long run, due to errors and the increased time a non-automated system takes.

As technologies quickly advance, a delay in making updates to your systems can invite risk. So why are schools still leveraging antiquated technologies? Unfortunately, it’s typically not by choice. It comes down to budget constraints and aversion to change that can cause districts to stall investing in new systems.

A tale of an AP upgrade

At Rochester (NY) City School District (RCSD), I struggled to keep up with our error-prone paper-driven process. We had thousands of expense reports to process and were doing it all by hand. This paper-driven system was inefficient and ineffective in tracking mileage—one of the more numerous employee expenses for the 57 schools in our district. The amount of effort required to process these reports was taking a toll on my AP team. And the lack of visibility and potential for errors was ending up costing the district more in the long run.

With ever-changing government and industry regulations, I also became increasingly concerned about visibility into our spend and having the right data to make decisions that have a positive impact on my district. Our system, like so many other legacy systems that districts are still using today, just wasn’t capable of meeting growing expense and invoice management demands. Without approved and final expense reports, we had little time to identify unseen spend and liabilities that were lying around, which we typically received in paper form at the end of the year or during a new fiscal year.

About the Author:

Derrek Blair is the accounts payable supervisor for the Rochester City School District in New York. He is a certified associate in project management has an A.A.S. in Accounting and a B.S. in Organizational Management. His expertise is in payables automation, internal control procedures, and accounting. You can read more on him at LinkedIn.

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