APS – How to “Fix” the Gains & Losses Report – Make it a Truly Useful Oversight Tool

[WARNING – the following post is “geeky” internal control stuff (a la Sarbanes-Oxley which governmental entities conveniently do not have to follow). If you enjoy reading this, you should immediately consider buying green eyeshades and consider a change in career to accounting. Read on if you must, but you were warned!]

In a prior post, I wrote about the Gains and Losses Report and noted how difficult it is to keep up with it throughout the year. As I said, lots of data, but not much information that is useful to the Board in performing their oversight duty.

In advance of providing a relatively simple fix, I spoke with Budget Commission Chair Burks. She indicated that:

“All positions must be approved by the Board based on the Gains and Losses Report submitted to the Board on a monthly basis”.

OK – sounds straightforward enough. So let’s ensure that is what is happening by amending the process and the Report as follows.

Pass a Resolution to Amend the Report – the Board should consider and pass a resolution that only the positions and specific titles as shown in the FY14 Approved Budget are approved. All positions and position titles not specifically identified and listed in the FY14 Staffing Report are abolished.

Why pass this resolution? Because a position created in prior fiscal years appears to remains active during the current year. This resolution eliminates the ability to fill a position created in a prior year unless it has been budgeted for the current year – which appears to have happened many times in FY13 without having to go through the Gains and Losses Report. Additionally, there are up to five or six different titles that refer to the same position – this resolution requires that the titles be identified in the budget (or in a cross-reference document – see below) and allows for much easier tracking of position changes during the year.

Create a Cross-Reference of Position Titles – Have the administration create a cross-reference of all position titles. As noted above, a position may have up to six different titles that are used in various reports – (i) the Budget Staffing Report (generally generic – i.e. Director), (ii) the Human Resources website (sometimes still generic – sometimes more specific – i.e. Director of Nutrition), (iii) the Departmental website and organization chart (often very specific – i.e. Director of Community & Legislative Affairs), (iv) the Gains and Losses Report (should be very specific), (v) the Salary Report used to prepare the budget and (vi) the State Report showing actual salary for specific years (usually generic – i.e. Human Resources Personnel).

While it is understandable that several position titles are necessary for various Reports, a simple presentation showing how each position is identified in each Report would allow easier tracking of the position flows. In addition, the Gains and Losses Report should remain “as is” with titles presented in a very specific fashion and consistent with the title used by the employee and contained in the employees personnel records.

Require Division and Department with Department Number in Report – The Gains and Losses Report generally presents the Division and Department – but not always both. In all instances, the Division, the Department Name (as referred to in the budget – if the name of the Department has changed, present the present and previous name) and the Department number should be shown. This includes Special Revenue Fund names and account numbers (i.e. – Title II-A Improving Teacher Quality – 2413).

Include Salary Information for All Position Changes in Report – For all new hires, the Step Level, salary Band and budgeted salary should be presented. For anyone receiving a promotion or a reclassification of their position, the current salary and future salary should be presented. This should also include both the current and future Step Level and salary Band. In the event a new position is created, the budgeted salary, Step Level and salary Band should be presented. When the position is filled, the budgeted salary and the actual salary should be presented in the Gains and Losses Report. And no increase in salary should go into effect (regardless of whether it requires Board approval) until presented in the Gains and Losses Report to the Board (currently, the salary changes are in effect prior to the Report being approved – essentially, the Board is given a fait accompli).

Present Quarterly Updates on Department Changes – On a quarterly basis- the original budgeted salaries versus the Amended budgeted salaries for each Department should be presented. This allows the Board to see how Departments may be changing over time.

This all sounds like a lot of changes, but it really is not. The only additions are the salary information, the Department numbers and the quarterly summaries.

The key here is to wipe the slate clean and abolish any prior approved positions that are not included in the FY14 Budget. That way, any positions filled that are not included in the FY14 Budget MUST be newly created, go through the Gains and Losses Report and be reviewed and approved by the Board. And in all instances, when a newly created position is proposed – if the addition is considered to be “budget neutral”, then the positions being abolished should also be presented at the same time.

I can hear the complaints about this now. However, it is important to remember a couple of things – all salaries are public information (available through the Open Records Act), all salaries are reported at the end of the year by the State and the APS Budget Department has a position specifically designated as “Position Management”.

Oh, and the Budget Department gets the benefit of a complete and up to date salary and title information file – which represents the bulk of the initial work in preparing next year’s budget.

The Board improves its control of salaries and positions, the Board keeps up to date on departmental and division changes and much of the work required to prepare next year’s budget is done.

What a deal!

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