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BUCKS: Better Understanding of Cash Kontrol Systems.

When the city treasurer's office found that $100,000 a year was being lost by poor cash handling practices in departments throughout the city, the response was an award-winning training program.

Even in the age of computers and modern technology, the City of Seattle Treasurer's Office discovered it had to revert to the basics of individual training to improve its cash handling practices to prevent and significantly reduce unexplained cash losses and paperwork errors. The City Treasurer's solution was to institute a comprehensive training program for all city cash handlers. Known as the BUCKS Program: Better Understanding of Cash Kontrol Systems - the training familiarized cash handlers with a newly adopted set of rules and procedures on cash receipting, collections, depositing and reporting.

The Need for Standards

The City of Seattle has more than 1,000 employees who handle cash transactions and annually collect in excess of $1.4 billion. Of those employees, only 45 work directly in the treasurer's office. There are more than 500 temporary and part-time employees who work and handle cash at the swimming pools, parks and recreation facilities. Except for the treasurer's office's employees, departmental cashiers have not received any formal cashier training.

Cashiers or cash handlers are usually entry-level employees, and cash receipting has been a decentralized process with no uniform rules, procedures or performance standards and only limited personal accountability. Despite this tradition of departmental independence and control, a need to handle cash more effectively had long been recognized. Studies conducted by the treasurer's office documented that approximately $100,000 had been lost annually by other city departments due to lack of training, security and lossprevention procedures.

The treasurer's office determined that tighter internal controls were necessary, that cash handling practices born from the notion, "because we have always done it that way" needed to be revised to accept the principles of accountability, accuracy, efficiency and timeliness.

Most employees in positions such as animal enforcement officers, life guards, building inspectors, etc., viewed money collection responsibilities as a minor portion of their jobs. Even those employees whose primary job was to collect money, such as parking attendants, solid waste site attendants or community service center employees, had not received formal training; their instruction consisted of on-the-job training usually taught by a fellow employee. This tended to downgrade the importance of money handling.

The Seattle City Charter proclaims the City Treasurer as the accountable official for all the city's cash collections, but prior to February 1989 it did not provide sufficient "teeth" to cause other department administrations to follow the treasurer's procedures and rules. Then an ordinance was enacted, specifically authorizing the City Treasurer to establish administrative rules for the receipting, handling and depositing of all city money and to institute a certification program for all persons who handle cash. The ordinance called for all city money to be deposited or receipted to the treasurer's office within 24 hours after acceptance; any shortage or theft of money was required to be reported immediately to the police and the City Treasurer for further investigative and corrective action.

The individual cashier certification program that the ordinance authorized provides a means for establishing uniform standards and accountability for cash handlers. Every cash handier must become certified by the treasurer before being authorized to collect money on behalf of the city.

To gain the cooperation of city departments, a working committee composed of representatives from key city departments was created to help design and develop the cash handling administrative rules. After six months of debate, review of various drafts and public testimony, the rules were formally adopted and distributed to all city departments and their key employees. These administrative procedures and rules provided the basis for performance standards and individual accountability for each person responsible for cash handling. Once the standards and rules were adopted, the treasurer's office embarked on the monumental task of training more than 1,000 city employees who handle cash.

Developing BUCKS

The training program, BUCKS, was designed to meet the practical daily needs of cash handlers operating from more than 100 collection locations. Those locations outside of the treasurer's direct control collected approximately $220,000 each day.

Development of the BUCKS Program was assigned to the treasurer's customer service supervisor, who used the Kolb learning model, a technique which taps and builds on the learner's own experience, observation and practice. Lectures, visuals, practical experiences and role playing were incorporated into the training program. In addition to expertise in systems design, the supervisor had broad experience in handling misapplied customer accounts and other issues surrounding errors made by the cashiers.

A team of eight volunteer instructors from the treasurer's office formed the training team. This team worked through the training format and developed its own style while remaining within the confines of the training manual. A pilot training program with employees of one department served two purposes: 1) it propelled the writing of a comprehensive training manual, and 2) it trained the trainers who would serve as the teaching faculty.

The BUCKS program focuses on how one learns to enhance what one has learned. The training manual explains not only how the operations are done, but why they must be done so. The asking of key questions reinforces the learning and determines whether the material has indeed been learned.

The development phase of the project took only four months. This was especially gratifying since there were no public programs which had a cashier training component that could be emulated or copied from another government agency.

The Training Manual

The Cash Handling Training Manual is divided into four modules: * Background Information; * Cash and Check Recognition; * Daily Cashier Operations; and * Security and Prevention.

I t also contains a course outline, glossary, training objectives, instructions and illustrations, review questions and a summary of each module.

Module one, Background Information, contains a brief history of money from ancient Greece to the present day: what it is, how it came about and how it is used as a medium of exchange. It also offers a brief history of U.S. money, the role of U.S. banks in creating money and the role of the Federal Reserve System. The history of the Seattle City Treasurer's Office also is reviewed: its role in managing city money, the legal provisions involved in handling city money, the administrative procedures and rules for handling it, and the roles and job of a city cash handler. Three important topics covered in this module are the cash handler responsibilities and performance standards in the following areas: * paying and receiving; * security and loss prevention; and * establishing and maintaining good

customer relations.

Module two, Cash and Check Recognition, concentrates on the proper handling of cash, coin, checks and other negotiable instruments. Each cashier undergoes practical exercises simulating various types of transactions in addition to receiving instruction on how to properly count, make change, bundle and strap currency, and deal with mutilated money. Each must learn how to count currency in three ways: the hand-to-hand method, hand-to-table method and the walk-through method.

The check recognition training explains what checks are, the various preprinted parts of a check and what information must be on a check for it to be negotiable. Examples of how checks are completed both correctly and incorrectly illustrate what type of information should be included and where the information is located on the check. Group discussions concerning acceptability of checks and identification requirements are part of this section, which also includes a short lecture and a video produced by the American Bankers Association entitled "Making Change." The video is followed by a practical exercise - making change using the three basic methods. The visual and experiential elements reinforce learning gained through the lecture and training manual.

Module three, Daily Cashier Operations, provides a detailed overview of the cash handler's responsibilities - from the setting up of a cash drawer to balancing out the cash drawer at the end of the day. For example, cash handlers receive instructions on how to complete a cash transmittal voucher, which records the governmental funds that are to be affected; all the requirements for filling out a deposit slip; how and where to transmit the day's cash collection. They also are given instruction on working with armored car services or utilizing night deposits. This module provides discussions of what should happen when cashiers are short or long in their daily transactions and explains how unusual it would be for a cashier to be perfect each and every day, year after year.

Module four, Security and Prevention, provides information on protecting the personal safety of all city cash handlers, especially in the event of attempted robbery. The cashier learns how to properly react in a robbery situation: what to say if confronted by a robber, observation skills and what steps to take immediately after a robber leaves the premises. He or she learns how to identify counterfeit and altered currency and the steps to take when faced with counterfeit or altered money. In other emergency cases, such as a fire or natural disaster, each one learns to properly react to secure the cash or to minimize a loss and to ensure personal safety.

Participants engage in role playing in case of a robbery and the group evaluates how the cash handler responded to the situation. This section also includes guidelines to help safeguard cash, instruction, for example, on securing unattended cash, dealing with unauthorized persons in cashier areas, and maintaining security devices such as silent alarms.

Certification Test

In this portion of the training, the participants complete a written test which trainers score immediately, a procedure which allows participants to receive immediate feedback. Trainers will spend extra time with participants who have difficulty passing the test.

All participants who complete the four-hour training program have been certified, and at this writing, all employees have successfully passed their initial certification examination. Each certified cash handler is given a certificate of completion and a record is maintained by the treasurer's office and the individual department's personnel records. If a cashier has excessive losses or paperwork errors, the employee's supervisor can request that the employee receive additional training or have his or her certification revoked.

The treasurer has the option to decertify employees whose work performance fails to meet standards. In cases where an employee embezzles or causes a serious breach of trust, the cash handler's certification is automatically revoked.

Benefits and Lessons Learned

For a successful comprehensive and mandatory training program, it is critical to design a process which minimizes fear of change, promotes the best in people and clearly demonstrates that they have greatly benefited from the training. Secondly, the students need to become involved in the training, gaining a sense of accomplishment and ownership in the endeavor.

The best students are those who want to be trained; these generally provide constructive feedback and encourage the instructors to do their best. The initial highly motivated students were instrumental in convincing their coworkers to complete the certification training and not to fear the exam. Union representatives and other leaders were encouraged by the positive training effort. The fear of failing the certification exam was significantly reduced as all students successfully passed the test.

The exceptional success of the classes can be attributed to the mix of instructional methods: student participation in practical exercises and role playing, the use of video tapes, and lectures enhanced by personal experiences from both the instructors and students. Finally, it was an enjoyable learning experience - people had fun.

By creating a cash handling certification program, the treasurer's office was able to establish standardized cash handling practices and to reduce cash losses and administrative errors. Since this program began in April 1989, annual losses decreased from nearly $100,000 to $20,000. This represents about .001 percent of city revenues, and translates to the ability to finance two more positions. It has positively affected income through identification of previously unreported losses. The city also has documented a 50 percent decrease in bank credit/debit error notices to correct deposit slips and the savings of countless hours of staff time to reconcile bank statements.

Four hundred and five employees have been trained and certified in sessions of eight to 12 students over a six-month period. More than 80 percent of the participants rated the training as excellent and commented that it greatly helped them to perform their job. In many cases, employees recognized how their job affected the work of others. It added meaning and importance to their daily work, and many mentioned that this was the best training class they had taken as a city employee. The classes are now offered twice quarterly.

Some classes have been modified to meet special needs. The parks department superintendent, for example, expressed a desire to have her staff train the department's employees, which include approximately 500 seasonal part-time and temporary workers. The classes could be tailored to meet individual and specific requirements of new departmental employees and also allow the department to have instructors within its own chain of command.

The treasurer's office trained 12 parks department employees to serve as instructors to train others within the department. Initially, 70 of the department's employees were trained and certified, representing far fewer than the total number who needed to be trained. For next year, it has been suggested that joint instructor teams combining trainers from the treasurer's office and the parks department be formed to conduct the training.


The BUCKS training program was designed and implemented without the assistance of outside consultants. The treasurer's staff researched the literature and sought out knowledgeable persons aware of public cashier training. The workbook, role play exercises and practical tasks were developed internally. The purchase of several video tapes from the American Bankers Association supplements the basic instruction.

The initial cost to develop the BUCKS course content, training workbook and other materials was less than $15,000. With approximately $10,000 for the instruction of classes, the initial effort totaled $25,000.

The primary instructors are treasurer's office employees, who on a daily basis perform those tasks in which they instruct fellow workers. They are keenly aware of the problems which are caused by poor cash handling practices performed in other city departments and field offices. Most problems, issues and lessons were based on actual situations and created a positive atmosphere for sharing and better cooperation in the future. The overall instructor evaluation rating on a 1-5 rating scale is greater than 4.0, which indicates high quality instruction.

A training program such as BUCKS can be implemented in any public agency that collects money. The visual aids, training manual, role play and practical exercises in the Seattle City Treasurer's BUCKS Program can be customized for any governmental environment.

The training manual is available for $15 and can be obtained from Lloyd Hara, City Treasurer, City of Seattle, 103 Municipal Building, Seattle, WA 98104.

Lloyd Hara, the elected Seattle City Treasurer, is a member of GFOA's Committee on Cash Management who has received numerous national honors and awards for innovative public management. He speaks frequently at national conferences, consultants and is a university instructor in the area of public finance and management.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Government Finance Officers Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Seattle, Washington's cash management training program
Author:Hara, Lloyd
Publication:Government Finance Review
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Previous Article:Understanding current and advance refundings.
Next Article:Linking strategic plans with budgets.

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