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Keller Independent School District

Texas school district, Keller ISD, receives $1.5 million in revenue – just for paying its bills.

Among Texas school districts, Keller Independent School District (ISD) is a role model. The district, which serves 35,000 students across a 51-square-mile area near Fort Worth, underwent a period of rapid growth some years ago, notes Kristin Williams, Keller ISD’s director of finance. “Even during those years, we tried to manage our finances in ways that are efficient and conservative,” she says.

But even responsible fiscal management has not made Keller ISD immune to the financial challenges all school districts face. In 2011, Williams was looking for new revenue streams when she first heard about a new electronic payment system developed by Commerce Bank that earned districts a revenue share when they paid suppliers using single-use electronic credit cards rather than checks.

“I wanted to learn more,” said Williams, a Kansas City native who was already familiar with Commerce Bank and championed the program. After performing its due diligence, the district chose Commerce to automate its accounts payable process.

Minimal effort, big reward.

Fast-forward to 2019. That’s when Keller ISD’s account management team from Commerce arrived at a public hearing to present district officials with a giant ceremonial check for $1 million — representing the revenue the program had yielded to date. In the years since, that total has grown to more than $1.5 million, all of which has been added to the district’s general fund to support day-to-day expenses.

“Our revenue share averages $250,000 a year,” reports Williams. “It now has its own line item in our budget.”

What exactly did Keller ISD have to do to earn this revenue share?

Not much, admits Williams. “We made a minor adjustment to our accounting system back in the very beginning. The implementation itself was seamless, and Commerce Bank took responsibility for enrolling our suppliers into the program.”

Participation has increased steadily over the years, spiking when the district uses bond funds to purchase furniture, books and other high-ticket items. Today, the district completes two runs a day — one for electronic payments and one for paper checks. For electronic payments, suppliers receive a credit card number they can use to obtain their funds.

In some cases, Commerce Bank has developed special work-around processes that enable suppliers to accept electronic payments. This was especially helpful at the beginning of the pandemic when the district purchased a significant amount of computer equipment for remote learning. Not only did Keller ISD receive a revenue share on these purchases, they also received the products faster because the manufacturer could ship them without waiting for a check to clear.

Another separate process was created by Commerce so that Keller ISD can receive a revenue share for the utility payments it makes for the district’s 44 buildings. “That was a big deal,” says Williams. “Commerce really comes through and finds ways for us to get revenue shares where they aren’t necessarily available.”

Regular communication is key.

These custom workarounds are possible because Commerce and Keller ISD staff meet periodically to discuss challenges and strategize ways to increase revenue share. “Most suppliers that accept card payments can accommodate our ordinary payments process,” says Williams. “But Commerce is willing to go the extra mile to make the exceptions work.”

At its account team’s suggestion, Keller ISD later added Commerce Bank purchasing cards for employees who travel or make purchases on the district’s behalf. In addition to eliminating the need for petty cash, the cards make it easier for the district to manage expenses. Funds can be loaded onto individual cards to cover meals or lodging, with spending limited to categories the district chooses.

“Commerce Bank has been a great partner,” says Williams. “When other school districts ask us about Commerce, we always rate the bank very highly. Everyone we work with at Commerce is helpful.”

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