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County gets new financial software

COVINGTON - The county’s dinosaur of a financial software system is being replaced to save money and time.

In what Commissioner Levie Maddox called “absolutely one of the top decisions, top approvals we will have this year,” the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved on Aug. 20 purchasing enterprise resource planning, or ERP, software from Tyler Technologies headquartered in Dallas, Texas, at a cost of $316,173. The cost could be less depending on whether time to convert to the new system is shorter than estimated, said Finance Director Michelle Kelly. Maintenance and operations costs are estimated at approximately $36,000 per year.

Kelly said the new software will help the county function more efficiently and ultimately save time and money by eliminating redundant data entry and reducing paper.

In a report to the Board of Commissioners, Kelly said the county is going from the Atari version of software to Xbox. She noted that the first copyright date on the current system is 1980, the same year Pac-Man was released in Japan. Though the most recent copyright date is 2007, not much has changed with the archaic system, she said.

“We struggle daily with duplicate and sometimes triplicate data entry,” Kelly told commissioners.

Most financial reports are compiled externally because data is not easily available within the system or what data is available is not what is needed, she said.

Currently, some items have to be keyed in three separate times, for example, requisitions that must be also keyed in as purchase orders and, if they are capitalized items, must then be keyed into the fixed asset system, because there is no communication between modules, Kelly said in a follow-up interview.

“The redundancy of most of the work we do is bogging us down,” she said.

In addition, there is a voluminous paper trail, because currently, when a typed requisition is submitted by departments, a purchasing order must be printed, then make its rounds to at least three people for approval. That will now be handled electronically and approved with a keystroke, Kelly said.

It will also be easier to produce financial reports, especially those for multi-year projects, like SPLOST. The present system can only print yearly reports, so, for example, when reporting SPLOST expenditures and revenues yearly reports are printed and then compiled onto a spreadsheet in order to get a cumulative, multi-year report. That, too, will change with the new system.

Also, the system should make the budget process more efficient, as currently Kelly sends blank spreadsheets to departments, they fill in the numbers and then she feeds the numbers into a larger spreadsheet to compile all the budgets. Once the budget is approved, Kelly then has to take the compiled budget spreadsheet and key it into the system. She estimates eliminating this redundancy will save her about two weeks worth of work. That’s important because the administrative and human resources departments are understaffed, with employees taking on extra duties in the last few years. All the redundancies are preventing employees from doing other tasks, she said.

The responsibilities of human resources and administrative services include handling budget and financial management for all county departments, enterprise agencies such as the solid waste department and Gaither Plantation as well as the Recreation Commission and Senior Services. In addition, they manage all 21 county funds and associated bank accounts, report financial information to the Board of Commissioners, department heads and state and federal governments, assist with the yearly audit and compile, review and monitor the county operating budget.

They also work with Senior Services and other local and state agencies in administration and reporting of grants, oversee inventories at public works and fire services, record and maintain the county’s fixed asset listing, enforce purchasing regulations, review purchase requisitions and generate purchase orders and manage disposal of surplus property.

All invoices are processed and checks generated to pay the invoices through those departments. Bond payment and debt payment, monitoring of all SPLOST revenue and expenditures are also handled.

In addition, they post jobs, take applications, schedule interviews, verify employment history, initiate background checks and schedule drug tests, handle employee benefits and maintain personnel files and issue paychecks and W2s, among other duties.

Employees currently have no way to access pay stubs electronically. That will change with the new system, and employees will be able to request benefit changes electronically as well. Presently, any changes to benefits, address changes, etc., must be done via paper and employee evaluations are kept on paper cards, because the current system does not have a human resources module, Kelly said. Job applications will now also be completed and tacked online, also reducing paper.

It will take about six months for the financial part of the software to go live, and another six months for human resources.

“It will be a difficult, slow process, but we will be so much better off once we cross that bridge,” Kelly said.