June 22, 2012


Software boosts city finance oversight

New $300,000 system will handle payroll, accounting and budgeting functions

Staff Reporter

The city is replacing its 30-year-old payroll system with new software that moves its accounting system into the modern age.
The city Common Council authorized the purchase of the new $300,000 system by an 8-0 vote during its meeting Tuesday. The city will pay $60,000 a year for the software over a five-year period.
Mack Cook, director of Administration and Finance, said the software change is necessary after years of using an outdated system and of harsh criticism from the state.
Cook said the city needed to purchase the software to allow department heads to track purchases, vacation time, compensation time and other payroll costs against the current year’s budget in real time.
He said the software will also have a “dashboard feature” that will allow residents and the city Common Council to monitor city transactions as they happen and monitor payroll costs on the city’s website.
Cook said the general public can track city departments spending and where they are in relation to the current year’s budget.
“This brings us to a new level of transparency,” Cook said.
Released in December 2010, a state Comptroller’s Office report criticized the city for its financial management, saying the city needed to find a better way of tracking employee hours, leave time and purchases across all city departments.
The city plans to use software from Tyler Technologies, a Texas-based company that provides software for local governments and schools to manage day-to-day business functions.
The cost for the software will be split among the water, sewer and general funds, since all three will be using the new system.
The new software will handle payroll, accounting and budgeting functions for the city.
Currently, many of the city departments manually calculate hours, leave time and benefits. The new payroll software will allow the city departments to report information into a system that will calculate pay, leave time and benefits.
Cook has been testing the software since December to make sure it was compatible with the various city contracts and department needs.
Mayor Brian Tobin said the city has considered a few options, including using the county as its software provider but that was more expensive than purchasing its own software.
He said using the county as a provider would have cost more than $400,000.
The city will install the software in July. Cook said the plan is to do this year’s budget on the software and it should be fully operation by Jan. 1.
“It allows the controls for better management of the city,” Cook said.
The city also approved a new set of financial policies during the meeting Tuesday. Cook said the policies will allow the city to make plans for its fund balance.
The fund balance could be $3 million by the end of 2012, Cook said.
Cook said the city has established specific reserves to maintain services and keep taxes down, prepare for natural disasters, replace equipment and renovate city parks and to remove snow.
Cook said having policies for the fund balance is important for long-term planning and the city’s goal to improve its bond rating. Last year, the credit-rating agency Standard and Poor’s upgraded the city’s bond rating from BBB to BBB +.
The credit rating provides an assessment of the city’s financial position, Cook said. Getting the rating in the “AA-range” will mean lower interest rates when it pursues bonds for projects.
“When you’re in the AA range, you increase the number of people who are interested in buying your bonds,” Cook said.


To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe