Schools more descriptive with accounts payable info
After months of work, St. Charles Parish Public Schools were able to revise their accounts payable to include more descriptive information on each expense every month.
In the past, the reports showed more detailed account descriptions for each expense but that information was lost when the district changed computer software last year.
For example, earlier this year an expense might have been listed as $2,376 for Heinemann but now it will specify that the cost has to do specifically with the Reading Recovery program.
The reason the format changed last year was because the district needed to implement new computer software and the new program would not produce the same type of report.
“We came up with the best report we could use at the time,” said Jim Melohn, chief financial and administrative officer for the district. “The software company was too busy setting up the new system to handle payroll for the district and working with other districts across the state to fix the format right away.
“They were bogged down…but ultimately they taught us how to do the reports and somebody on my staff was able to create the new report which pretty much mirrors what we used to have in the old system.”
Some members of the public have come forward with complaints during School Board meetings since the descriptions were taken off the reports last year. Complaints ranged from questioning why the descriptions were suddenly omitted and accusing the district of not being transparent to asking about specific expenses and what they were for.
A few items that have specifically been called into question during meetings are travel expenses and payments to fitness centers.
Melohn said that he hopes travel expenses will be more understandable now that the reports have account descriptions again.
For instance, the report differentiates between general travel costs and mileage costs within the district. So whereas earlier this year it might have looked as if the school district was paying individual employees lump sums for no apparent reason, you will now be able to see that the payment is a reimbursement for mileage associated with their jobs. One example of this could be nurses that travel to multiple schools each week.
Melohn said other travel expenses can account for many different types of trips.
“It can be several different things - it can be conferences, professional development, site visits,” Melohn said.
He said site visits to out-of-district schools have been very beneficial to the district in the past.
“That is where a lot of our new, innovative ideas come from,” Melohn said. “The Satellite Center came from a visit like that. The same is true for senior projects - we actually implemented that three or four years before the state mandated it because we saw it at another district outside of Louisiana and felt like that’s where we needed to go.”
He said that the ADAPT and Court School programs also came from ideas taken from site visits.
“All of our expenses are strictly useful in trying to improve the school system - to improve instruction in the district,” Melohn said.
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