Grand Haven Area Public School District gains efficiencies, saves staff time by automating its payments system.
Grand Haven Area Public School District
Grand Haven, Michigan
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, the Grand Haven Area Public School District has been educating children in this popular vacation destination since 1886. More than 5,300 K-12 students are currently served in the district’s 11 schools, which are ranked among the top 5% in the country by U.S. News & World Report.1 Since 2015, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized five high-performing Grand Haven schools with Blue Ribbon School awards, making them national models for innovation and educational success.
The school district’s relationship with Commerce Bank began in 2022, when the district’s chief financial officer met with a Commerce banker at a Michigan School Business Officials conference to discuss automating the district’s accounts payable system.
Implementing integrated payables within an aging ERP system.
Each month, Grand Haven Area Public School District processes hundreds of supplier invoices, all of which have traditionally been paid by check. To save time and money, as well as to add an extra layer of security, CFO Michael MacDonald sought a way to use virtual credit cards or ACH to pay suppliers who preferred those options — and improve vendor verification processes.
Several obstacles stood in the District’s way, including recent turnover and an aging Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that new staff were still learning to operate. Finding time for internal resources to implement the new system and enroll suppliers could prove difficult.
The CommercePayments® Payment Hub.
Commerce Bank recommended the CommercePayments® Payment Hub, an integrated payables solution that would streamline the payment process, lower administrative costs and free up the district’s internal resources.
Compatible with Grand Haven’s existing ERP system, the CommercePayments® Payment Hub would make it possible for the school district to pay each supplier using their method of choice: virtual card, ACH or check. After a team from Commerce worked with the district’s hundreds of suppliers to identify their preferred method of payment, the district could send all supplier payments to Commerce Bank in one encrypted, online payment file. Commerce would then process and distribute the payments according to each supplier’s preferences on the school district’s behalf, with Grand Haven earning a revenue share on payments made by virtual card.
The school district opted to implement the solution at the beginning of the 2023 – 2024 school year.
A savings in time and money.
One of the primary reasons Grand Haven chose the CommercePayments® Payment Hub over alternative solutions, according to MacDonald, was the hands-on role Commerce promised to play in the integration and supplier enrollment processes.
“Our ERP system is not very common, and Commerce made setup easy,” said MacDonald. “They helped bring a new employee up-to-speed in the process.”
Even more attractive to the school district was the bank’s willingness to enroll its suppliers in the program, MacDonald added. “Our first priority was to sign up suppliers who will take card payments, and Commerce knew just how to find them,” he said. “They did the heavy lifting for us. Their hard work saved significant time on our end during initial enrollment.”
The automated payments system also addresses another long-term issue that remains on MacDonald’s mind. “Staffing issues aren’t going away,” he said. The CommercePayments® Payment Hub can help any future gaps.
With supplier enrollment ongoing, MacDonald is also pleased with the results. “The number of suppliers who have signed up for card payments has exceeded our expectations,” he said. He attributes the increase to Commerce Bank’s enrollment and verification efforts. Annual credit card charges are now projected to be as much as double original projections.
“Commerce lets our vendors know what to expect and has been good about handling any issues that might arise after enrollment,” MacDonald says that the revenue share the school district receives from these transactions will go toward offsetting the cost of his next big project: automating the school district’s invoice system. In a project expected to kick off next year, Grand Haven will work with the Commerce team to replace its manual invoicing process with an automated system that will make it possible to receive, approve and process invoices electronically. The ongoing time-savings made possible by the integrated payments approach is even more substantial. “An accounts payable staffer used to spend 25 hours a week processing invoices and payments,” said McDonald. “That is 25 hours our staff can now spend focusing on the general ledger and overseeing the accounts payable process.”
Being an early adapter of AP automation among Michigan schools could have been challenging, MacDonald said. “But Commerce was able to remove any obstacles that tried to get in our way. The level of communication between our two organizations continues to be great,” he said.
CommercePayments® solutions are provided by Commerce Bank.
1Formosa, Lauren. “CH, SL high schools rank among best.” Grand Haven Tribune, https://www.grandhaventribune.com/news/education/gh-sl-high-schools-rank-among-best/article_adf916ff-c2f3-57a1-9927-b082e4a746bc.html. 9 Sept. 2023.