Top 12 most important financial policies

The following information is submitted by the OSD Business Office:

Below is an article published by Office of the Washington State Auditor on June 18, 2021. We are sharing as a means of providing the understanding of the foundation we use in making financial decisions and helping to ensure good financial management for our district.

According to the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), it’s a best practice for governments to formally adopt financial policies. We couldn’t agree more. Financial policies create expectations for government operations, provide a foundation for making financial decisions and help ensure good financial management.

Here are the top 12 we consider essential:

Budgeting and planning – Your budget process should be formalized in writing, with methods and roles and responsibilities for finance staff and department heads. In addition, long-term financial planning processes should describe how many years will be forecasted and how often the forecast will be reviewed and updated.


Municipal Research Services Center (MRSC) Budget policies
GFOA Long-term planning and forecasting policy template

2. Cash management and investing – These policies are crucial for delegating authority, planning for sufficient operating cash, establishing investment strategies, and ensuring monitoring controls over these high-risk assets.


MRSC’s Investment policies
GFOA Investment policy best practices

3. Fund stabilization and cash reserves – Every organization needs some money stored away for emergencies, future projects or commitments, or general working capital to meet operating needs. This policy directs cash reserve levels and annual commitments to create or replenish them.


MRSC Fund balance and reserve policies
GFOA Example policies for reserves

4. Cash receipting – This policy is important so cashiers, and managers that oversee them, understand their responsibilities and what they should and should not do. It should address physical security of cash receipts, as well as who can approve steps and actions related to cash receipting (such as a new receipting location or accepting credit cards), and many other items.


State Auditor’s Office Cash receipting best practices guide
GFOA Revenue control policy best practices

5. Capital asset management – A capital asset policy should provide the foundation for making important decisions about your assets, such as a long-term strategy for maintenance and repair. It should also cover various accounting aspects, such as setting a capitalization threshold, inventory requirements, disposition procedures, and asset replacement.


MRSC Asset management policies
GFOA Capital asset management best practices
The Budgeting, Accounting, and Reporting System, contains requirements for a capital asset policy

6. Debt management – These policies establish the framework that guide how you will incur and manage debt, for example the types of debt instruments allowed, debt limits, the process to issue new debt including selection of service providers, and the management of current debt. These decisions can impact a government’s financial well-being for 20-30 years, so it’s important to have strategies in place.


MRSC Debt management policies
GFOA Debt management policy best practices

7. Procurement – This policy provides much needed clarity on the requirements and processes for purchasing various goods and services. Many governments have statutory requirements establishing various dollar thresholds for procurement, and those that don’t should establish their own.


MRSC’s Procurement policy guidelines
State Auditor’s Office resource, includes guidance for establishing policies over change orders

8. Disbursement systems controls policy – This policy should cover the process and control system for each major disbursements process, like payroll and accounts payable. It should cover controls over transactions from initiation to payment, as well as the monitoring that should take place.


Coming soon! We will be including policy development tips in our payroll and accounts payable best practices guides.

9. Expenditure authorization policies – These policies address specific types of expenditures that are allowed and the rules surrounding them. These include policies like compensation, travel, employee reimbursements, and others depending on the programs your government operates. For example, if you provide advanced travel funds or have an employee recognition program, then you should have policies in place before you process this type of expenditure.


MRSC Travel and expense reimbursement policies
MRSC Sample document library

10. Segregation of duties – Policy should spell out which duties should be segregated, and the additional oversight controls expected if or when key responsibilities can’t be divided among employees. This policy can be more general and describe the expected high-level authorization, recording, custody of assets, and reconciliation duties that should be separated. Or, it may be specific on what certain positions should not do.


While we don’t have a specific resource to demonstrate what to include in a policy, you might find this resource helpful: State Auditor’s Office Segregation of Duties Guide

11. Conflict of interest/ethics – Officers and employees should not have a financial interest in any transaction they authorize or are involved with (in the course of their duties). Also, they should not unfairly benefit as a result of having their position. This policy should communicate expectations and give employees several ways to report concerns to the governing body. Washington state law provides the basis for these policies and is referred to in the following resources.


MRSC Local Code of Ethics webpage
State Auditor’s Office’s Making it easy to report concerns

12. Document retention – This policy covers your government’s requirements and methods to manage documents from creation to disposal. Some financial records must be kept for a certain period due to state retention laws. As more records are stored in electronic formats, this policy is even more important to ensure the appropriate documents are identified, securely stored and retained for the proper timeframe.

Resource: MRCS’s Electronic records policy

Electronic time reporting and electronic payroll workflow systems enhancements

As you know, our Electronic Time Reporting System launched successfully on December 1, 2020. Since its launch, the team has been working to enhance the ETRS and EPWS system with new auto-fill features in order to improve on the seamless, user-friendly experience. The team is excited to announce these enhancements and expected launch dates!

Use ETRS to Manage Your Allocated Extra Hours and Submit for Payment

Allocated Hours will be a brand new dropdown menu item in the ETRS system. Buckets of time will be added by Payroll to ETRS in accordance with each Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for each union group. These buckets will be updated in real-time and frontloaded at the beginning of each school year or whenever new allocations are allowed per the CBA. Employees will see their current balances at any given time, and after timeslips are submitted, balances will be updated accordingly, which allows for easy and seamless tracking. Employees will not be allowed to input timeslips that cause any given bucket to go into a negative balance, which means that employees will always be apprised of how many hours are allowed for that specific Type of Time. For example, on September 1, an OEA employee may see that they have an available balance of 30 hours for Staff Development. Let’s say the employee submits time worked for 6 hours of Staff Development. The balance will update automatically to 24 available hours for Staff Development. Examples of Allocated Hours include, but are not limited to, Staff Development, IEP Additional Hours & Progress Notes, Additional Days, Incentive Days, and Grant Specific Allocations. Please refer to your group’s CBA for more information regarding allowable timeslip submissions.

Skyward or ETRS?

Now that allocated hours can be seamlessly managed in the ETRS system, there is no need to track or manage allocated hours in Skyward. As we consider moving forward with the new ETRS features, a committee will consider whether or not to use ETRS as the sole management tool for allocated hours and timeslipping for those hours, while using Skyward to manage only sick, vacation, personal, and other types of leave. If you would like to serve on this committee, look for the contact information at the end of this article.

Additional Hours is Now Other Hours

In the drop-down menu, “Additional Hours” will now be “Other Hours”. Other Hours will include any time above and beyond the Type of Times in ETRS. For example, if an OEAPA staff member covers a lunch due to short-staffing and runs into overtime, that employee would input “Other Hours” and select “Overtime Rate” when submitting their timeslip. Other examples of Other Hours include, but are not limited to, hours above regularly scheduled work hours and overtime. Please refer to your group’s CBA for more information regarding allowable timeslip submissions.

“Signature” Required by Auditors (It is Easy!)

New disclaimers will also be added to the ETRS system in compliance with auditing standards. You may notice a new blurb towards the top of the page along with a checkbox that you need to click in order to submit your timeslip(s). All electronic timeslip submissions require acknowledgement and confirmation via your electronic signature (i.e., checkbox). This carries the same weight that your wet signature would on a paper timeslip. While consent was implied within the current system, our auditors required an explicit statement and step on the ETRS site. The same acknowledgement statement will be included on the approval (EPWS) site.

New IEP Hours Feature

For employees that utilize IEP Hours, IEP Hours will now include a separate, electronic request form that adds additional hours to your balance, when approved. For example, let’s say a teacher is working individually with a student, but that teacher doesn’t have enough IEP hours to cover the time. Previously, that teacher would submit a paper form to SpEd to request additional IEP hours. Now, the teacher will request additional IEP hours through an online form, which is sent directly to the SpEd team for review and approval. Upon approval, that teacher will now see additional hours related to that student in the ETRS system, and the teacher can submit timeslips accordingly. The balance will update in real-time and include both the standard IEP allocated hours along with any approved requests by the SpEd department. This is an exciting enhancement, as it will streamline the way IEP Hours are tracked and allocated.

ETRS Designed According to Employee Groups and CBA Calendars

All calendars will also be updated to reflect any given employee’s school year. For example, OEA employees will have a calendar that runs from August 1 through July 31. OTPAA employees will have a calendar that runs from September 1 through August 31. Please refer to your group’s CBA for more information regarding calendars.

We anticipate a launch date of September 1st for the new enhancements to go live; however, we will begin testing in June. A committee with representation from each employee group will be asked to help us test the system and ensure it is working properly. If you would like to be part of the testing group or if you have any questions, please contact Payroll at (360) 596-6190 or email All training materials on the ETRS Training Web Page will be updated to reflect these enhancements, and live training will be offered soon.

Procurement Card MOU: What is it and why is it important?

Laptop with zoomed in hand typing and hand holding a credit card with phone and ear phones laying next to computer

Purchasing with a district procurement credit card is convenient and has become part of our regular practice; however, there are important terms and conditions to which all OSD employees are expected to comply. Prior to using a district card you must have fully completed the MOU (Memo of Understanding) for Procurement Card. This MOU provides the employee with the list of required terms and conditions, and by completing it the employee acknowledges agreement with these. We want to remind employees of three specifics areas of concern with the use of procurement cards:

Purchases shipped to non-OSD locations

ALL purchases MUST BE SHIPPED to an OSD entity; never to a personal address. The state auditor perceives shipments to non-OSD locations as misappropriation. It opens up the possibility of defrauding the district, with the possibility of the purchased items never being used by the district at the desired location. We know this has not been the intent in the past, but for the district’s and your protection it is imperative that purchases are always shipped to an OSD location.

ECommerce vendor purchases made with procurement card

Orders from ECommerce vendors must be completed via Skyward; never with a district procurement card. Skyward has been set up so that ordering from specific vendors of high volume use can be transacted through the requisition process in Skyward.  Ecommerce vendor orders should ALWAYS be placed through the requisition process in Skyward. This procedure, in addition to streamlining our invoice processing, also ensures that orders only ship to an OSD location, and meet competitive pricing established for us by these vendors.  The current Ecommerce vendors are Staples, Office Depot, Dell, Grainger, Amazon, KCDA, The Home Depot, Really Good Stuff, Waxie, Childcraft, Frey, Sax, School Specialty and Sportime. If you are unfamiliar with how to place an Ecommerce order in Skyward, we have a video we can share with you. Just reach out to Business Services so we can send you this video.

Procurement cards used to purchase gift cards, postage stamps or cash equivalents

The card cannot be used to purchase gift cards, postage stamps or other items considered as cash or cash equivalents. Per Washington State Auditor, these items are considered as cash, and as such, a gift of public funds.  In addition, in the case of gift cards, the IRS requires that gift card value be reported as income when given to employees of the district.

These three items have been audit findings in the past, therefore we must disclose to the state auditor as non-compliance. We understand that there are sometimes extraordinary circumstances and we are always here to assist you with problem solving prior to purchasing. If you have questions, concerns or the need for problem solving, please call Business Services at extension 6120 or send a help ticket to

OSD Travel Procedure updated

Country road surrounded by grass

Per audit compliance, all miles traveled must be based on actual miles between departure and destination and documentation must be attached to verify these miles. We have updated our Travel Procedure to clarify when attached documentation is necessary. Charts are provided on the Forms webpage, located on the staff intranet, under the Travel Procedures & Documents section. Any mileage provided in these charts has already been documented for audit purposes, so no attached map is necessary; however, if mileage is not listed on the chart, a map must be attached. This is true for both local and distance travel. Below is the Required Documentation of Mileage, Parking and Toll Expense section of the Travel Procedure with the update highlighted (the last sentence of this article).

Required Documentation of Mileage, Parking and Toll Expense

All requests for reimbursement of mileage, parking and toll charges must be documented on the Travel Expense Reimbursement in Skyward. Employees should obtain itemized receipts for these expenses and submit the receipts with the Travel Expense Reimbursement. If it is not possible to obtain a receipt, then a written explanation should be included on the expense statement.

Reimbursement for mileage will be based on most direct route using actual miles between departure and destination. Miles traveled must be detailed either by utilizing mileage on the district webpage mileage chart; or in cases when the mileage is not listed on the chart, by attaching a map which includes mileage distance from location to location (Mapquest, Google Map).

Electronic Time Reporting System update

Thank you for your help as we continue to work out minor glitches associated with the new electronic timeslip system. One issue that has been recently apparent is related to the user login experience. In order to better serve our users and cultivate a strong authentication process, all online business and payroll forms (including ETRS, EPWS, and ETDS) have moved to the OSD Portal (effective on April 1). The OSD Portal is more easily accessible and employees are usually already in the portal for other reasons. This move will make daily work more seamless with administrative tasks.

On the off-chance that you are not familiar with the portal, we have created a short video to show you how to log in the OSD Portal, and then where to access the links. Click here to watch the video (less than 30 seconds in length).

In short, you will now simply open your preferred web browser and visit Log in using your OSD credentials. Once logged in, under the “Staff” list on the left side of your screen, choose “Online Forms.” From there, you can now access links to multiple business and payroll systems.

New trainings offered for Electronic Timesheet System implementation

Person typing on a laptop computer

The following is information shared by the Payroll and Business Services departments:

December represented our first month using the new electronic timesheet system. The system had many successes, but a few glitches. Thank you for your participation, we know you have the option to submit time via a paper timeslip, and we appreciate your patience as we work to solve these glitches and create a 100% success rate. 

One issue that we are finding is that the approval process can take longer than we expected, usually when approvers do not know the correct budget code. This has always been the case, but we were not able to track a paper timeslip as it transferred from person to person, and we never knew when it had started its journey. Now we see the time-item move in the electronic system, and sometimes movement is not a linear or a quick path.

Therefore, it would be helpful if employees submitted their time-items as the month progresses.  We are used to “batching” our items, as we fill up the five or so rows of the paper timeslip. Now batching is not a factor; in the new system you can submit one item at a time. If time items are input by the employee soon after the time is worked, there is more opportunity for the correct budget code to be inserted in the approval chain within the payroll month. To be clear, we are not changing cut-offs, just encouraging you to refrain from batching entry of your time-items, if possible.

Below are a series of links to new trainings on the timesheet system. The trainings are designed by employee group so that the type of time-worked and the instructions for submitting time, are specific to employees.  These are live trainings, and you are able to ask questions during the zoom training.

All of these trainings are appropriate to participate in within your contract day (or to attribute to staff development hours, depending on your employee group).

OTPAA – Olympia Technical Professional Administrative Association1/12/21
10 AM
TOPA – The Olympia Principal Association1/13/21
2 PM
OEA – Olympia Education Association1/19/21
10 AM
TEAMSTER – Food Service1/19/21
3 PM
TEAMSTER – Technology Support & Service Technicians1/20/21
10 AM
NRNS – Non Represented Non Supervisor1/21/21
3 PM
Administrators – Certificated1/26/21
10 AM
OEA – Olympia Education Association1/26/21
3 PM
OPA – Olympia Paraeducator Association1/27/21
10 AM
Approvers and Supervisors – Electronic Payroll Workflow System (EPWS) & Treeno Cabinets1/27/21
3 PM

Thank you again for helping us implement paperless (contactless) time-payment systems!

New system to submit timeslips online starts December 1

Hands typing on computer keybaord

The Business Office is excited to announce the launch of the Electronic Time Reporting System (ETRS).  The new system launches on December 1, 2020.

Resources, including live and recorded trainings on the new timeslip process, are located on the staff Intranet Electronic Timesheet Training page (be sure to log into the staff intranet first to access this page directly). You may also reach the site by logging in to the staff Intranet and selecting Departments, Payroll, and Electronic Timesheets.

Register now for upcoming live trainings and find recorded “how-to” training documents by visiting the Electronic Timesheet Training page.

This new system will give employees the ability to submit timeslips electronically, which will reduce the time it takes to get paid for extra hours, especially during this Pandemic when processing is delayed by working remotely.

In addition to the ETRS system starting on December 1, 2020, the Payroll department will continue to process paper-approved, PDF-scanned and emailed-approved timesheets.

Electronic Timesheet System

The following is a message from Business Services:

laptop computer with books and pencils and coffee mug

Last March when we went into Stay Home mode, we heard from employees that paper timesheets were a barrier to timely compensation. In response, we developed a PDF submittal system in May and June. This system turned out to be frustrating because staff must save the blank form to their computer desktop and then fill it in, then re-save it, then attach it to an email. 

Therefore, for the last few months the payroll and business team, and a small design team, have been working on creating an electronic timesheet. The electronic timesheet is intended to mirror the cells of a paper form. 

  • Paper timesheets are replaced with an electronic system that forwards the electronic timesheet from the employee to the supervisor to the Payroll Office.
  • The timesheet will automatically fill in the employee name and building once they have signed into the system.
  • When the employee hits submit, the form will automatically notify their supervisor.
  • Supervisors can sign these forms electronically; notification that they have a form to sign is sent to their email. (1 email per day maximum, regardless of the number and type of forms a supervisor receives in a day.)
  • Supervisors control the budget code that time is charged to.
  • The form is never printed/mailed, therefore we avoid the frequent occurrence that forms are lost and never arrive to the Payroll Office.

The prototype is now ready, and so it is time to begin testing the prototype. Testing involves submitting fake timesheets for multiple batches for multiple time scenarios. Our best chances of catching any glitches are if many staff submit their timesheets using realistic scenarios. We need testers! The testing window is November 1 to November 25.

If you are willing to test the system by entering fake timesheets, we welcome your involvement. Please click here and fill out the ETRS Volunteer Survey. We will contact you and set you up for testing.

Please note, after November 25, all of the timesheets you entered will be deleted. No compensation will be paid off of these timesheets. If you volunteer to test the system, please remember that this is a test-only prototype. Therefore, if you have actual time to be paid for time worked during the testing period, you will still need to fill out a paper timesheet or PDF fillable timesheet and forward the approved timesheet to the Payroll Office.

We are optimistic that this system can be available for staff to use beginning December 1. If so, we will offer all three methods for submitting timesheets beginning December 1: paper, fillable PDF, and electronic timesheets.

Thank you to our design team and developers for their many hours of effort to create this system! (The design team included: Christa Hilinski, Wendy Rae, Margie Jenne, Valerie Steplight, Cheryl Baker, Rachel Beard, Betsy Durant, Mimi Peradotto, Angela Nadeau, Aaron Davis, Curtis Cleveringa, Matt Grant, Darlene Fuller, Gretchen Maliska, Julie Shanafelt, Suzanne Bowser, Sam Logan and Dave Eilers. Thank you all!)

Reminder: Submit travel expense reimbursements by August 31

We want to remind all staff of the following message from the district Business Office and an August 31 deadline for submitting travel expense reimbursements:

Historical OSD procedures, and updates adopted in 2016, require that Travel Expense Reimbursement submittals be submitted within 60 days post-travel. Our district must meet these guidelines to ensure that budget managers know how much budget capacity they have remaining because payments of past activity are being taken out of accounts within a predictable time period. As our budgets become tighter due to constrained resources, the ability to manage budgets and cash flow becomes more important.

In alignment with our travel procedures; we will require travel expense reimbursement be submitted within 60 days post-travel.  This will require prompt submissions of expense reimbursement (in Skyward) for travel expenditures incurred.

In addition to the 60 days post-travel provision, the law requires expenditures for travel be posted in the same fiscal year they are incurred. Therefore, expenditures for the month of June through August 2020 must be submitted in Skyward by August 31, 2020 to be posted to the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Submit travel expense reimbursements by August 31

The following is a message from the district Business Office:

Historical OSD procedures, and updates adopted in 2016, require that Travel Expense Reimbursement submittals be submitted within 60 days post-travel. Our district must meet these guidelines to ensure that budget managers know how much budget capacity they have remaining because payments of past activity are being taken out of accounts within a predictable time period. As our budgets become tighter due to constrained resources, the ability to manage budgets and cash flow becomes more important.

In alignment with our travel procedures; we will require travel expense reimbursement be submitted within 60 days post-travel.  This will require prompt submissions of expense reimbursement (in Skyward) for travel expenditures incurred.

In addition to the 60 days post-travel provision, the law requires expenditures for travel be posted in the same fiscal year they are incurred. Therefore, expenditures for the month of June through August 2020 must be submitted in Skyward by August 31, 2020 to be posted to the 2019-20 fiscal year.