Issuing paychecks and paying bills are two critical functions performed in business offices. Harris County Department of Education Assistant Superintendent of Finance Dr. Jesus Amezcua planned for the challenges of the pandemic early-on to make sure his staff could accomplish both of those fiscal responsibilities—and more. “A very important part of the process is the work our staff contributes daily to the successes of HCDE’s business office,” Amezcua said. Amezcua is beholden to his division’s unsung heroes for accomplishing the financial tasks which keep an organization running smoothly. One of those 22 employees is Marcia Leia. Her spring break holiday took a sudden twist after a visit to her husband on assignment there. While visiting during spring break in March, the pandemic spread, and Leia couldn’t leave Ecuador. She and her daughters stayed and are still there. Leia uses her HCDE laptop and internet access to accomplish daily journal entries, financial reports and budget items for her client Head Start. Teleworking for Business Services and Purchasing employees has meant securing the additional equipment needed to do business: laptops, printers, scanners, computer monitors and office supplies. Connectivity was another issue, Amezcua said. Some employees didn’t have internet access so hot spots were purchased. Zoom and Microsoft Teams accounts were set up for support meetings. Technology employee Andre Jumonville has been particularly helpful, said Amezcua. “We transitioned 98 percent of our work offsite by using our system and implementing various software packages such as Adobe Link, Teams and Zoom,” Amezcua said. “We identified a number of essential personnel who would come to work each Friday to process payroll and accounts payable checks. We started with eight staff out of 21 initially and then reduced it to four—two in accounting, one in payroll and one in accounts payable.” Staff working onsite are required to socially distance and wear masks. Sanitizers are used routinely. In addition, Facilities Division staff clean areas daily with approved, industrial disinfectant processes. Facilities also helps with routine mail delivery so that payments may be processed. Another huge project falling under the Business Services umbrella is the HCDE yearly budget and Financial Operation Guidelines training. Those meetings have been accomplished online. “Documents were shared, and the entire process was converted to an electronic platform, and time and money was saved by this implementation,” Amezcua said. “This process as well as the electronic signatures of various documents will be maintained moving forward.” In fact, electronic files are now standard fare for Business Services. The pandemic has changed the way the Business Services and Purchasing divisions now conduct business, Amezcua explained. Operations within the Purchasing Division have changed as well. Adobe Link allows staff to submit credit card reports (P-Card) electronically. Credit limits have been stretched to allow for emergency purchasing for divisions needing to purchase additional telework equipment and other supplies.
“I am very proud on my staff,” Amezcua said. “They have adapted, and they have risen to the challenge. We continue to produce checks, payroll, contracts, purchase orders, financial statements, budget amendments, investment reports and agenda items as routine. Except now, they are all done electronically.”Source: HCDE