On the money
Tacoma, Wash.-based WorkForce Central — also known as the Tacoma-Pierce County Employment & Training Consortium — has been providing Pierce County with workforce development services since 1982, and until recently, the organization’s finances were managed through the city’s accounting system. The arrangement worked for many years, but as the consortium of government, business, education and community organizations became more established, managers wanted more access and control over their financial data. “We took in the data, but they did all the processing,” says Lance Mertz, WorkForce Central’s CFO. “Financial reporting was especially problematic.”
In early 2009, the group began looking for a new accounting system that offered all the functions it needed and would be manageable without an in-house IT staff. WorkForce Central managers decided on a remotely hosted version of Sage MIP Fund Accounting from Austin, Texas-based Sage North America, which they purchased from North Palm Beach, Fla.-based NonProfit Technologies, Inc.
With the previous system, WorkForce Central could not run reports of its own revenue and expenditures, trial balances, and other information. As a substitute, staff used Excel spreadsheets to produce financial and grant reports, but that process was prone to inaccuracies and caused major reporting and audit issues. Now, its accountants are self-sufficient. “The system has taken us away from spreadsheet accounting,” Mertz says. “We previously had a very difficult time showing an adequate audit trail.”
With the new accounting system, Mertz can run reports in multiple ways, spanning different time periods and breaking out activities as needed. Select staff also can view the data directly in addition to the reports. “Executives like this feature a lot, because they can pull up reports when they need them, without having to call accounting staff,” Mertz says. “Our offices are spread across five sites, so it’s very beneficial for executives to be able to get what they need, no matter where they are physically located.”
The payroll process also has been improved by the new accounting system, which quickly allocates labor to all of the organization’s various grants and activities — a process that used to be more labor-intensive. “We now have a fully integrated, hosted accounting system,” Mertz says. “As long as the Internet connection is adequate, the system works anywhere. Plus, we don’t have to worry about installing updates, performing back-ups, or caring for the server. Everything is done for one price per year.”
Project: Accounting system update
Jurisdictions: Tacoma and Pierce County, Wash.
Agency: WorkForce Central
Companies involved: Austin, Texas-based Sage North America, Nonprofit Solutions; North Palm Beach, Fla.-based NonProfit Technologies, Inc.
Date completed: April 2009
Cost: $75,000, including training, licensing, and other services