High-tech accounting and payroll result in savings

June 12, 2003

Payroll and accounting employees are like umpires and referees, joked Jack Porta, director of Accounting Operations. "You don't notice us unless something goes wrong. Luckily, we don't get noticed very often."

He and 13 employees in accounting operations along with Payroll Manager Donna Neideigh and seven payroll employees handle millions of dollars' worth of transactions each month. Although managing so much money will always be a challenge, technology has improved the way the University does business and made accounting and payroll's jobs much easier.

Combined, Neideigh and Porta have more than 60 years of experience in accounting operations and payroll. Over the years they have seen a lot of changes and improvements in these areas.

"Years ago we did everything manually," remembered Neideigh, "Today it's all electronic."

Implementation in 1996 of the Penn State Purchasing Card is a prime example. According to Porta, almost 7,000 employees throughout the University system have purchasing cards. Together, they use the cards for approximately 27,000 transactions each month to purchase things like lab equipment and materials, software, periodicals and supplies.

Before the purchasing card, Porta explained, each department had to issue a paper purchase order or limited order. It was then sent to accounting where it was manually entered, checks were issued and payments were made.

"Today, when an employee makes an approved purchase with the card, vendors and businesses submit the charges to PNC Bank," Porta said. "Once a month, PNC sends a statement to us. After it's reconciled, we issue one check in payment. Going from issuing checks for each vendor to issuing just one check has resulted in decreased banking fees and significantly less employee processing time and costs."

Payroll and accounting also have reduced banking and processing costs through direct deposit of employee reimbursements and paychecks. Approximately 300 employee reimbursements are made on a daily basis. In addition, the payroll staff makes sure that almost 35,000 University employees get a paycheck every month. They make sure that those checks are accurate and on time. Most of these transactions are done electronically. In fact, Neideigh believes the University is on its way to a completely paperless payroll. She pointed out that of the nearly 35,000 paychecks issued each month, only 1,200 are paper checks. The rest are electronically deposited into the employee's personal account. Although some documents still require employee signatures, Neideigh predicted that some day these, too, will be completed electronically.

Moving away from paper has resulted in considerable savings in payroll and accounting. "Today, we keep no paper at all," explained Porta. "Forms are imaged, stored electronically and then the paper is destroyed."

Fewer people are involved, less space is used for storage, electronic payments are easier and cheaper, and it is relatively error-free. Another benefit to electronic deposits, added Neideigh, is the lack of lost-check hassles. Porta concurred, "Banks charge a fee for every stop-payment we issue on a check. Direct deposit eliminates these fees. Also, direct deposit means there are no altered or lost checks — electronic checks can't mistakenly be put into the washer or eaten by the dog."

Both are quick to point out that the success of these electronic endeavors depends on tremendous assistance from IBIS and OIS. They agree that getting 35,000 checks out each month and managing nearly 27,000 monthly purchasing card transactions would be impossible without the staff in the Accounting Operations and Payroll offices.

"A few employees may be reluctant to trust the technology," mused Neideigh, "but I can't think of many drawbacks. In all this time, with so many payments we have never lost an electronic fund transfer."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 20, 2009