Water Works Bookkeeping and Accounting
Conclusion of Superintendent Bohmann’s Paper on Milwaukee’s System—City Divided and Subdivided into Equal Sections—Perpetual Card Inventory and Stock Record
MILWAUKEE’S ACCOUNTING SYSTEM
(Continued from page 733)
In order to equalize the work in the office, the city was divided into a certain number of parts or sections as nearly equal as possible, all beginning at a common center at the east end of the city and radiating wedge shaped to the outskirts. This arrangement assigns to each bookkeeper or section clerk a part of the downtown district, part of the central district and a part of the outlying district and divides the handling of new accounts equally between all bookkeepers or section clerks and gives to each an equal share of the work. If a section through the influx of new accounts become unequal, the same can very easily be equalized without sacrificing control or necessitating any great changes as the block numbers are permanent and it is only necessary to add or to cut out one or more blocks from a section to again equalize the number of accounts in each section, or from time to time as the department grows, add an additional section.
There is one meter readers’ route book for each block, each bok representing one day’s readings. The accounts in the blocks are arranged in numerical order from one up. All ledger cards in the collection office are kept in steel cases mounted on omnibusses and are set up, not in tap or connection number order, but in block number rotation, and accounts in each block are consecutively numbered from one up to conform to meter readers’ route books. Meter readers turn in each morning the route books representing the reading of the previous day. These are turned over to the bookkeeper or section clerk having charge of the respective sections, who then proceeds to enter readings on ledger cards which are in precisely the same order as the readings of the route books, makes subtractions and extensions and turns cards over to the clerk to be billed. There has just been installed a bookkeeping machine which takes care of “straight” accounts; that is to say, an account where the meter has been in continuous service during the entire collection period of three months. This machine prints the present reading, the previous reading, makes subtractions and prints in the amount on the ledger card. This machine is equipped with special symbols such as “high readings,” “leaks in toilets,” “don’t register,” etc. Where a meter has been off and the account is “averaged” the figures and amounts are inserted by hand. We find that when an operator becomes thoroughly familiar with this machine, he can handle 100 per cent, more accounts than by hand, and turns out a much more legible job. With the old style ledger cards, the present reading or larger reading appeared under the previous reading. Subtraction, therefore, was not an easy matter, especially when large figures were encountered. The bookkeeping machine subtracts automatically, requiring no mental effort on part of the aperator. As the subtraction is done mechanically, it is not necessary to audit cubic feet consumed to avoid errors in subtraction. When not in use for ledger card posting, the machine is used as a straight adding and listing machine.
All bills are now made out by billing and adding machines. These machines print present reading, previous reading, cubic feet consumed and amount on bill, then shuttle over and print amount on stub without again setting in figures on machine and also accumulate cubic feet consumed and amounts. The introduction of billing and listing machines has increased the output more than 100 per cent over billing by hand, besides producing a much neater and more legible bill. Bills were formerly written by hand by meter readers. As a result we had thirty-six kinds of chirography with a certain percentage always difficult to decipher by the receiving teller. The use of these machines eliminates the necessity of comparing bill with stub as errors between bill and stub by transposition or otherwise are now impossible. It also eliminates the auditing of amounts on ledger cards and assessment roll if totals agree, thereby saving a great deal of time formerly occupied in comparing.
Before the adoption of the present method of handling accounts, the accounts were set up according to tap or connection numbers, in numerical order, consequently no billing could be done until all readings were taken, transcribed on reading slips, then assorted according to tap or connection number and entries made on ledger cards from reading slips and not from the original entry in meter readers route book. Under the present scheme, billing can be begun by clerks immediately after the first days readings are in and accounts computed, instead of waiting until all readings were taken and meter readers reported at office to do the billing. When all readings are taken, amounts computed and billed, bills are in the same order of rotation as are the ledger cards and meter readers route books and are immediately ready for delivery by meter readers without any assorting.
All materials and supplies used by the water works are charged to stores and controlled by a perpetual inventory and stock record which is kept on separate cards in the General Office of the Water Works. Materials and supplies can only be withdrawn on proper requisitions. Work orders are used for all work performed against which materials and labor are assembled until the job is completed. If it is a chargeable job, a bill is made out from the assembled work order. If it is a non-chargeable job, the work order is charged to the proper operating, maintenance or construction account.
A detailed financial and operating report is made annually to the Railroad Commission of Wisconsin and to the Common Council of the City of Milwaukee.
Forms of pumping station log sheet, ledger card, time slip, work order and stock cards only are herewith submitted, as the department uses over two hundred differant forms of printed matter.
(To be continued)>