Fresno Unified School District replaces more checks with electronic payments.
Teaching children to conserve resources, save money and use time wisely are lessons worthy of any classroom. The Fresno Unified School District has also found a way to teach by example, streamlining the way it pays district bills in the process.
Finding a more efficient approach to accounts payable.
With 78,000 students, Fresno Unified is the fourth-largest school district in California. Each year, its central accounting department processes tens of millions of dollars in invoices for supplies, services, utilities and other expenses for the district’s 104 schools.
For much of the district’s 160-year history, Fresno Unified paid invoices by check. A desire to reduce costs and increase efficiency led the district to seek an electronic payment alternative in 2013. After reviewing proposals from multiple banks, the school district selected the CommercePayments® AP Card program from Commerce Bank.
AP Card and other electronic payment solutions.
The Accounts Payable (AP) card program would make it possible to pay invoices electronically using a virtual credit card. Not only would the card dramatically reduce the number of checks the school district processed and the time and money spent cutting and mailing them, it would also provide Fresno Unified the opportunity to earn a revenue share on each month’s payments.
While the CommercePayments® team worked to integrate the virtual credit card program with the school district’s existing accounting system, Fresno Unified’s accounting department compiled a spend file that listed the school district’s current suppliers. Using a consultative approach, Commerce contacted and enrolled suppliers willing to accept card payments.
Participants benefit from speedy payment. Within 30 minutes of a payment file being uploaded, they are notified and can process payment from the single-use virtual credit card Commerce emails on the school district’s behalf. Enrollment in the program is ongoing and managed by the CommercePayments® team, rather than the district.
“Commerce makes this program so easy for us to use. We periodically supply our bankers with a vendor spend file, and Commerce takes it from there.”
Christine Stevens, Business Operations Manager
Fresno Unified School District
To date, more than 1,400 suppliers have enrolled in the virtual card program, and over 700 have received payment with a single-use payment card.
For suppliers that are unable to accept cards or that require phone, website or manual invoice processing, the bank works to provide customized terms to increase enrollment. The goal is to provide payment solutions that minimize the use of paper checks, while also meeting school district and supplier needs.
More payment options added.
Not all school district spending is linked to a purchase order. To enable authorized school district employees to pay for travel or buy goods and services that require upfront payment, Fresno Unified added purchasing cards to its electronic payment options in 2016. These charge cards, which also earn a revenue share, can be used with any supplier that accepts cards.
In 2022, when Fresno Unified expressed a need for a flexible and easy way for teachers and staff to fund out-of-pocket expenses for school-related activities and events, Commerce suggested prepaid expense cards. With this program, the school district can manage card usage from its central accounting office, electronically adding or removing funds from individual cards and deactivating lost or stolen cards, as needed. After a trial with 10 cards, Fresno Unified expects to increase the number to 100 in 2023.
By expanding its use of electronic payments solutions, Fresno Unified is saving time and money, while also conserving school district resources. The virtual credit card program has significantly reduced check volume. Enrollment has been ongoing since 2013, and by 2022, the school district’s total revenue share had more than doubled.
“Commerce has made the enrollment process run smoothly and the payments process is seamless,” says Stevens. “Our bankers respond quickly to any needs or questions. Every year, they are looking for ways to grow our program and assist us with new products and technology.”
“Commerce goes above and beyond,” she adds. “We are extremely satisfied with the results.”