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Guest Column - September 2002

No Longer Just Treading Water

How three pools improved their cash management and reporting

By Darci Yeo, Class Software Solutions


The City of San Mateo, Calif., operates three public swimming pools. Located on the San Francisco peninsula and serving a population of 90,000, the pools get a considerable amount of use. Since 1995, each pool has used parks and recreation software to manage memberships, registrations, facility bookings and payments. Previously, staff had managed everything by hand. The software allows each location to process everything more efficiently. Additionally, staff at each pool are able to build more comprehensive records that indicate which classes and programs are in greater demand.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SAN MATEO, CALIF.
One of thee public pools run by the City of San Mateo, Calif.

"However, once the software was in use, we found we were still facing a major challenge," says Dave Gray, senior community services supervisor of the Department of Parks & Recreation of the City of San Mateo. "The pools were operating as standalone facilities with three separate cash-register databases and three different sets of depositing procedures. It was difficult and time-consuming to keep accurate records of sales and revenues."

Every day, staff from each pool had to complete two manual deposits, one for revenues of registrations, memberships and bookings and one for all other nonrelated revenues, including drop-in swim admissions. Errors were sometimes made, so every day, the deposits were forwarded to the main parks and recreation office, where additional staff would double-check the work of each pool. Then, the cash and data could be sent on to the finance department.

The many steps of manual entry and verification meant there was little control over cash security. Consequently, many hours per week were wasted on manual account balancing.

"It was time-consuming, tedious and a lot of extra work," Gray says.

A typical swim season would involve more than 500 deposits moving through this multistep process.

The City of San Mateo began investigating ways to improve the procedure. It was introduced to a citywide solution that would benefit the pools as well as other facilities. New point-of-sale software was available that could integrate systems across departments and facilities so all sales data could be easily processed together.

In June 2001, the City of San Mateo began using an integrated point-of-sale system. Staff at the three pools no longer have to do manual deposits. Now, they process all end-of-day deposits right in the software system, and financial data is uploaded electronically to the city's general ledger system. All the information can go into one cash balance report, and there is no longer a need for the main parks and recreation office to rebalance each day before it goes to the finance department.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SAN MATEO, CALIF.
New point-of-sale software improved efficiency.

"The new system has allowed us to save a lot of time," Gray says. "For just the pools alone, we save about 20 hours per week that used to be spent doing manual deposits. When you factor that by a year, that is a lot of savings."

There is no limit to the variety of items that can be processed. In addition to sales for pool memberships, class registrations and facility reservations, the City of San Mateo now can process sales for everything from garden-plot rentals and special-event tickets to tree permits and recreation gift certificates.

Money collected in point of sale is streamlined with revenues collected for memberships, program registrations and facility bookings, so customers can pay for a variety of items in a single transaction.

The reporting capabilities of the integrated software systems have brought a new level of accountability to the pools. The central office can control the running of detailed reports to analyze sales.

"We can see what we are doing from facility to facility," Gray says. "The detailed reporting allows us to keep track of everything and allocate resources accordingly."

The City of San Mateo has also added a payment processing interface to increase security and efficiency of credit-card payments. The payment processing functionality allows the pools and other recreation facilities to process credit cards without the overhead costs for multiple processing terminals. This alone saves a minimum of more than $3,000 per year and reduces the number of errors as all accounts are authorized and settled at the central recreation office.

Implementing the integrated point-of-sale and payment processing software has required users to be trained and new business processes to be introduced. However, Gray says the investment and the changes have been worth it.

"Our ability to be accountable to the finance department is no longer compromised," he says. "Introducing integrated systems has opened the door to much more effective cash management and reporting for our pools and other facilities."

Darci Yeo is a market relations specialist at Class Software Solutions. She can be reached at 800-661-1196 or darciy@classinfo.com.

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