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County gets new financial software
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Replacing the county’s "dinosaur" of a financial software system was hailed as one of the most important votes of the year by Chairman Keith Ellis and Commissioner Levie Maddox last week, because, they said, it will make the county more efficient and make information more accessible.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to spend $316,173 to purchase business management software from Texas-based Tyler Technologies, with an annual maintenance cost of $36,000.

The software is in a category called "enterprise resource planning" and allows for integration of multiple departments, including finance, purchasing, human resources and others.

In her report to the board, Finance Director Michelle Kelly said the goal was "to provide one central repository for all information" produced namely by administrative services and human resources.

She said the two departments handle the county’s purchasing, accounts payable and receivable, financial and grant reporting, hiring and payroll and benefits, and also assist all 28 county departments and other groups, such as the Recreation Commission and Senior Services, with financial and budget management.

Commissioners were in favor of the switch because it will allow them to receive more financial information more quickly, which they’ve said will be one of the first steps in starting on true strategic planning.

Maddox said last week the fact the finance director has to print out some reports and then manually type them into Excel almost made him "want to cry." He said the board and citizens expect and want the staff to be professional and have the tools to get the job done.

The Tyler Technologies bid was not the lowest, as Michigan-based BS&A Software had a final bid of $258,894; however, the committee that studied the proposals felt Tyler offered a superior package. Tyler also has multiple clients in Georgia, including nine counties and four cities.

Kelly called her current financial software a "dinosaur" and said the new system would greatly improve day-to-day functionality and efficiency.

At times, employees have to enter data two or three times, and Kelly said reports are not easy to generate. Given staff cuts and extra responsibilities taken on by employees, Kelly said reducing redundant work was necessary.

"(The county is) going from the Atari version of software to the X-Box," Kelly said in her report.

The software won’t be used for a while because of training requirements and a re-thinking of processes, Kelly said in her report. She said the software will be implemented within four to six weeks of a contract being signed, and it will go live for the finance department six months after implementation and for payroll and human resources 12 months after implementation.