A Day in the Life of the Fiscal DepartmentPosted January 28, 2021
A Day in the Life of the Fiscal Department
- Mary O’Grady- Chief Financial Officer
- Samantha Ashline- Finance Controller
- Sarah Czelusniak- Staff Accountant II
- Anthony Carter- Staff Accountant
CEO’s Fiscal Department is arguably the backbone of the organization. All programs and services are supported by the functions of the Fiscal Department on a day-to-day basis, and there’s a lot that happens daily on the third floor of the Administration Building. Join us for a Tuesday with the Fiscal team, also known as Mary, Samantha, Sarah, and Anthony!
Sarah, Staff Accountant II, starts her day. Remote work looks a little different with much of the agency working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she likes to get an early start regardless. She has been with CEO for four years and lives in Schenectady. So, while she usually has a little bit of a commute, today she’s working from her living room.
It’s the Tuesday of a payroll week, so she has a lot of payroll-related tasks to accomplish. Staff across the agency have already submitted their time sheets on Friday and managers have approved them, but there may be a few stragglers or exceptions that need to be fixed. Sarah checks in on how things are coming along. The payroll cycle is a collaborative effort. HR makes sure that the time sheets are accurate, benefit deductions are correct, and then Fiscal makes sure everything is as it should be.
Samantha, CEO’s Finance Controller, and Anthony, Staff Accountant, both start their days. Sarah and Samantha have a check-in to discuss any payroll issues or other things that might have come up since Sarah began her work day. Samantha has been with CEO for six years and previously worked for the firm that provided audit services for CEO.
There are four members of the fiscal team currently. Anthony’s tasks are daily oriented. CEO has bills to process every single day, so he always has daily work to focus on. Sarah’s work is more weekly or biweekly, such as reconciling extended-day tuition, creating purchase orders, processing payroll, etc. Samantha’s tasks are more on a monthly basis, such as reconciling CEO’s cash accounts, processing monthly insurance invoices, billing our funding sources, etc. She is also reviewing Sarah and Anthony’s work throughout the week. Mary, Chief Financial Officer, does a little bit of everything including a more high-level annual look at where CEO’s accounts and budgets are. Mary keeps tabs on cash for the agency on a daily/weekly basis. Mary also does budget planning and monitoring and is part of the Senior Administrative Team.
The Fiscal team participates in the Admin Building call with the rest of the building staff: HR, Marketing, IT, etc. While much of the agency is remote at the moment, the Admin building is almost entirely remote and this is a great way to communicate across departments. The Zoom meeting lasts about an hour.
The culture of fiscal is to talk all day long to one another, so the department uses Microsoft Teams to help with the challenges of working remotely. While they used to have a standing monthly department meeting, in some ways they meet even more now to keep communication flowing during remote work. The department on a whole meets for an hour weekly. In addition to that, Samantha meets with Anthony and Sarah at least twice a week, and communicates frequently with Mary.
Samantha reviews an Accounts Payable voucher batch, prepares a One Troy bill, and assists the Hoosick Falls FRC with their bottled water after an anticipated delivery did not arrive. After that she orders tap shoes for the One Troy project. No two days are the same in Fiscal, “Days have a plan, but credit card interruptions, issues via phone and more come up, so we are constantly pivoting,” says Sam, “That’s part of the culture of the Fiscal department, to meet the needs of the whole agency.”
Sarah continues to work on payroll. HR needs to tell Fiscal when timesheets are settled and ready to import. Sarah will have all the data she needs to have entered into ADP beforehand. She can usually fit in some other tasks throughout the morning, but once everyone’s time is ready to import, Sarah imports it, and then the rest of the payroll team will review it. Fiscal tries to have time imported by lunch each Tuesday of payroll week and no later than 2:00pm. “Sarah finishes work at 4, so we try like hell to get it submitted prior to when she leaves for the day,” says Sam.
Timesheets are ready, imported, and payroll is ready for review!
Normally the Fiscal team would have lunch together. They like to sit down and catch up for a few minutes in the middle of the day. They always are available to service the agency with any needs that might pop up, but like to take their mid-day break together. This is definitely something they miss with everyone working remotely.
Samantha reviews and approves a batch of purchase orders.
When a staff member submits a purchase request, the request gets approved by their manager, and is sent to an electronic fiscal mailbox. Mary and Samantha have access to the PO approval mailbox. Sam will go through it if Mary is on vacation, but Mary usually reviews the request and backup to make sure the expense is reasonable, allowable, and allocable for the program. Mary codes the request according to the program cost centers and then forwards to Sarah.
This is usually done in batches and Fiscal may have to push back to the program for duplicates or other anomalies if there is an issue.
Sarah then creates the purchase order. It gets entered into the general ledger system (Fund EZ) and that creates a purchase order number. Samantha reviews the request along with the generated PO and approves, providing any necessary notes to Sarah. At this point Sarah sends them to the program to let them know the purchase request is approved.
The program then goes on to make the purchase, using the generated PO and PO number.
“Anthony then enters the process as the receipts, packing slips, and other materials that need to be matched to the POs are sent to Fiscal. We also get a bunch of bills that don’t have POs, mostly ongoing monthly payments such as utilities, etc. Anthony also processes that incoming mail. We probably make about one hundred vendor payments a week, not including stipends” says Sam.
Anthony works on collecting and reviewing credit card receipts. Matching receipts to approved purchase requests or credit card statements is an important step for reconciliations. Some programs like Weatherization & WIC VMA typically have a lot of monthly travel, which can produce many gas receipts to keep track of. Part of Anthony’s Staff Accountant role is making sure we have all the documentation that’s needed for each program’s purchases.
Sarah is able to finish payroll, and spends a little time working on Early Childhood Services extended day tuition. She reconciles her accounts against what is sent over from Teresa at the CRC. She also spends some time checking in with Anthony.
“I’ve been doing some training with Anthony to onboard him and get him fully trained on fiscal procedures, so I usually check in with him at least daily. It opened up growth opportunities with me too, which I’ve enjoyed. I try to help Anthony with big voucher batches and keeping on top of electronic filing,” says Sarah.
Sarah is working on the weekly bank deposit. Fiscal does a weekly deposit and with remote work that has become more challenging and is more on a biweekly schedule. “We get checks from our funding sources, donations, and Head Start families that pay for extended day care. It’s important that the deposit is timely for both parties,” says Sarah. She scans and deposits everything unless we have cash, in that case she’ll go to the bank.
Samantha is working on responding to a funding source question. CEO’s fiscal year goes from April 1st to March 31st, however, not all of the programs follow that fiscal year. “There are lots of regulations across all the different programs CEO offers to keep track of. Because of the fiscal years not all aligning, it is especially important that each program follows their budget allowances and timelines. The Fiscal team’s knowledge of all the budgets is critically important here,” says Sam.
There are also other cycles and program needs that Fiscal keeps track of: The Foster Grandparent Program and YouthBuild stipends are issued on a biweekly basis. Fiscal is also responsible for recording any in-kind requirements, they coordinate desk audits for programs, voucher traces, and billing funding sources to ensure compliance.
“We typically bill funding sources monthly. For Head Start, we are able to electronically draw down funds; WIC, WIC VMA, and ESPRI we have to prepare a bill. The state may have questions and be looking for the support for an individual voucher, so there is a lot to keep track of while we keep our programs funded and moving along smoothly,” says Sam.
In addition to all the program cycles and regulations, Fiscal also has to coordinate and support an external audit every year, which is a lot of work.
Sarah’s day ends around 4pm. Anthony works until 4:30 typically, Sam is usually in the office/working until 5pm, and Mary is usually similarly working later in the day. The team likes to have consistent coverage throughout the whole business day.
Having a later work day gives Samantha a chance to double check Anthony and Sarah’s work. There is a lot of duplication in reviewing everything in accounts payable and payroll. With accounts payable, there are a lot of one-off things that need to be reviewed. Sam probably spends three hours a week reviewing voucher batches for corrections. “For example, our heat is on a monthly agreement, but we still receive a notice when oil is delivered; that can be mistaken for an invoice. There are a lot of things like that that come up on a weekly or monthly basis and need multiple eyes on them,” says Sam.
Mary is working on some program projections before wrapping up for the day.
Fiscal sends financial reports to program directors and they meet with Mary on a monthly basis to review. Mary creates projections to show what they’ve spent, what’s been approved, and how much is left in the budget for the rest of the program year. That helps everyone make decisions on what to do with any remaining money and how to proceed with expenditures.
“Mary is always budgeting ahead of time to make sure things are going to work budget wise for each program through their program year. Mary is the pre, I am the post, and Anthony and Sarah are the day-to-day. We make a great team.” says Sam.
What is your favorite part of the job:
“My favorite part of working with Fiscal is that they make me feel a part of something more than a team. I feel like I’m a part of a family.”
“My people! We have a good team and that’s really important. We all look out for each other and are looking out for Fiscal’s interest all the time.”
“The people I work with. The people you work with can make or break your job, it’s a day or night difference. I don’t get to see the families directly most of the time, but I know the work I do provides a service to them and I get to do that with my great coworkers.”
“I have two things: I love numbers and I love CEO. I get to work with great people and I get to see that the numbers benefit the families. I’m always in awe of our community and I’m very proud of what they accomplish. I love being a part of their lives that way.
I couldn’t ask for a better group of people. Our Fiscal family works so hard and their heads and their hearts are in their work. They buy into CEO’s mission, and that’s very important. You could be a good accountant, but not good with the community. You really need both to work here. I also feel honored that Samantha chose me; she used to be our auditor and then came to work for CEO.”
Interested in joining the fiscal team?
Fiscal is hiring for the part time Fiscal Assistant role. That part-time staff member helps process incoming mail, filing, and other administrative tasks. Documentation is a paramount application of Fiscal, so this is a very important support role. Everything needs to be properly filed and retrievable. This position will also be helping with the retrieval of outstanding items like missing gas receipts, etc. and some data entry too! It’s a great team to work with. Applicants can apply through our ADP portal.