District 97 officials are looking to replace its current financial and human resources system with one that they say is more efficient.

The district currently pays $28,481 a year to a company to maintain its current Alio system, according to an April 21 memo by Rob Grossi, the district’s financial consultant, and Michael Arensdorff, the district’s senior director of technology.

Arensdorff and Grossi recommended that the board switch to a “more robust and effective system” called Infinite Visions at a cost of $430,020 over five years, which includes a first-year on-boarding cost of $227,777. They estimated that the cost of maintaining the program from years six to 10 would be around $304,392.

“This is not just a replacement of the current system,” Arensdorff said during a regular board meeting on April 21, which was conducted via teleconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s to really transform and take a deeper dive into our processes and procedures within the system and how we operate our business and human resources.”

“Upgrading the software will allow us to better manage budgets, align with best practices, improve efficiencies, comply with [Illinois State Board of Education] guidelines and better track financial equity by allowing us to monitor expenditures by building and program more efficiently,” Grossi said.

In their memo, Arensdorff and Grossi said that the district’s current financial and human resources system “has/is creating inefficiencies and struggles to complete tasks that have led to direct and indirect costs that will be addressed with a new system in place.

“This is something that has also been identified in the annual financial audit over the last 2+ years,” they wrote. “Due to this and the district getting some key staff in place to embark on the planning and execution of a new system this recommendation is now coming to the board.”

Last April, district officials had to apologize to some teachers who did not receive paychecks because of “an internal oversight that led to our payroll information not being uploaded to the bank in time for this to happen,” according to a letter drafted at the time by Paul Starck-King, the district’s former assistant superintendent of finance and operations.

And in February 2018, Stark’s King’s predecessor had to apologize to employees after acknowledging that “an accounting error made the previous year had resulted in an insufficient amount of payroll taxes being withheld from employee paychecks — an error that could have affected their state tax returns in 2018,” according to a Wednesday Journal report at the time.

During the April 21 board meeting, the D97 school board unanimously approved the appointment of Patrick King as the districts new senior director of finance. King, who will be paid an annual salary of $130,000, will start on July 1.

“We’ll be able to have run out the payroll for the whole year and setup the new contracts in the brand new system rather than having to carry stuff over,” Grossi said.

The district also promoted Felicia Starks-Turner, currently the district’s senior director of administrative services to associate superintendent of education at an annual pay of $160,000. Starks-Turner will start in her new role on May 1.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Grossi and Arensdorff said that they recommend that the district convert to the new system on July 1, 2021, which was pushed back from an initial target date of Jan. 1, 2021.

“We’ll be able to have run out the payroll for the whole year and setup the new contracts in the brand new system rather than having to carry stuff over,” Grossi said, explaining the advantages of the July date.

Grossi said that he anticipates the district realizing a variety of cost-savings and efficiencies  with the new system in place.

“There would be an automatic reduction of at least one staff in HR,” he said. “And many functions will become easier to do, such as bank reconciliation, grant tracking and other aspects of HR. And I think as the systems going and the people get familiar with it, just like any other software, we can have a second bite at the apple to see if any other efficiencies can be developed.”

The board is expected to vote on the new system at a regular meeting on May 12.

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