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Schuylkill controller wants check writing back in county

Published February 27. 2014 05:00PM

For two years, Schuylkill County's nursing home at Rest Haven has been handling its own check processing.

But county Controller Christy D. Joy says he wants to bring the task back in-house because there are too many errors being made.

Joy, at a public meeting Wednesday, made his case to county commissioners.

"I want to bring it back. We decided to try it. It was a new experiment," Joy said. "They're using a lot of spreadsheets and a lot of things have to be done manually, so it takes a lot of time for our office to process it. There are a lot of preventable errors."

If the processing was brought back into the county system, he said, it would eliminate duplicated processes, increase efficiencies, and strengthen internal controls.

This was the third time Joy made his request. He asked on Nov. 1, 2013 and again on Jan. 22.

Commissioners did not consider the request.

Instead, Chairman Frank J. Staudenmeier asked Joy to talk with county finance director Paul Buber and county administrator Mark Scarbinsky.

The county turned the check processing over the Rest Haven in July 2012, which used a software package of its own choosing. Rest Haven uses the software to create checks to pay invoices.

The county controller, administrator and treasurer still have oversight.

Rest Haven's software tracks which checks are written, to whom, and to which account they should be charged, Joy said.

However, "the human element is still heavily involved," he said.

"Amounts are manually entered into different spreadsheets that Rest Haven uses to post to account numbers," Joy said.

The manual input has resulted in errors, which include included posting expenditures to incorrect contracts, mathematical errors to the budget, and incorrect posting to accounts, he said.

Also, because the spreadsheets weren't being cross reconciled when they were given to the Controller's office, the monthly batch reports lacked data integrity, and Rest Haven spent more money than it was permitted to by county code.

"It became challenging to determine actual cash balance. For example, Rest Haven wrote more checks than (it) had money in the bank," he said.

Joy said the "last error was cutoff, meaning the nursing home was trying to pay 2013 invoices on 2014 budgets."

Rest Haven is managed by Service Access Management. SAM's Chief Financial officer Mary Ann Kowalonek, in a telephone interview after the meeting, declined to comment as required under SAM's policy as a contracted consultant to the county.

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