Steamboat Springs City staffers say a $500,000 software overhaul implemented during the next several months will result in greater efficiencies for internal finances and greater transparency and other benefits for the public.
Steamboat Springs Interim Finance Director Deb Hinsvark said last week that the overhaul is orchestrated through Caselle, a Utah-based provider of government accounting software. The situation is comparable to a general contractor who’s building a house and uses subcontractors for tasks such as plumbing and wiring — Caselle, the general contractor, will use several other software programs for specific functions such as financial services and online record-keeping. Hinsvark said the overhaul would affect every city department.
“We’re calling it our software conversion project,” city revenue supervisor Kim Weber said.
The project’s half-million-dollar cost is budgeted in the city’s capital improvement fund.
The conversion is intended to provide several benefits for Steamboat residents. First, Weber said, will be the ability to pay water and wastewater bills and view statements online through the city’s website, http://steamboatsprings.net. That service should be available in October. By the end of the year, Weber said, the city should be able to accept sales tax payments online.
Those services will be implemented along with electronic filing programs for city departments. Weber and Hinsvark said that most of the city’s financial activities, such as check requests and invoices for purchases, are processed and stored with physical documents. New financial software from SIRE Technologies, also based in Utah, will allow scanned documents to be transferred and stored online. Hinsvark said that change would expedite and improve the city’s accounting practices across the board.
The city has hired information systems analyst Mark Billerbeck, formerly of Cisco Systems in Denver, to help integrate SIRE. Billerbeck said the new software would give city employees easier, increased access to financial documents.
“I just think it’s going to give employees the visibility to really understand their budget,” Billerbeck said. “Anybody from your director down to your front-line employee will be able to go in and check both their department and their own budgets, if they’re operating a project, for example.”
Some of that access will extend to the public.
“One of the big initiatives on this is to be as transparent as possible,” Billerbeck said.
Weber said what information will be made available to the public, and in what format, is not finalized. She said that’s largely because of the significant amount of information involved and determining what’s helpful and what’s not.
“We have to consider the usability of it,” she said.
But the public will have online access to detailed department expenditures, she said.
“Our goal is to get as much useful information out through our website as possible,” Weber said.
The public also will have increased accessibility to Steamboat Springs City Council meetings. Weber said the city clerk’s office would use the new software to provide live online audio of City Council meetings. After the meetings, people will be able to replay audio content according to specific agenda items, she said.
Weber added that the overall software conversion would “be great for record retention” for all departments. She said the city currently rents storage space for physical documents. Hinsvark said ideally, physical storage would be phased out as documents, old and new, are transferred to the electronic filing system.
“Our goal would be, if we can get to it, to scan all the old files,” Hinsvark said. “We won’t be keeping the paper going forward.”