The St. Joseph Finance Department is implementing new software that will make its budget process less manual and more efficient.
Plante Moran, the certified public accounting firm hired to look at the finance department’s processes after a whistleblower’s allegations, recommended the city increase automation and update software.
The department’s current process is plugging numbers into countless spreadsheets, including last fiscal year’s budget and operating costs, supplemental capital requests from each department and positioned budgeting.
“Rich, (the city’s financial analyst), spends hours and hours just compiling 100 different spreadsheets — it has to be 100 different spreadsheets and Word docs that we have to convert to PDF, and then you combine them together and then put them all in order,” said Tom Mahoney, the administrative services assistant director.
The new software, ClearGov, will streamline the entire process. Instead of hundreds of spreadsheets, the finance team only has to worry about one database. For example, if someone changes a number, the software will automatically adjust the other sections, rather than an employee having to make those changes manually in several different documents.
The department already has access to the software and will use it to create the budget for the next fiscal year starting in July.
“Those components are still there, but we’re dumping them into a spreadsheet and trying to do that, so the process will be streamlined,” Mahoney said.
Right now, the finance team fills in the budget for other departments with the information directors provide. But eventually, other departments will have access to the software and be able to enter their data with oversight from finance employees.
As the finance department gets used to the software, it will also be able to make changes in real-time. For example, if the council is in a work session and wants to know how a certain unexpected cost will affect the budget, someone familiar with the software can enter the changes and get a result instantly.
This software only covers the budgetary process, so updates are still needed for other areas in the department.
“This is the budget,” Mahoney said. “(ClearGov) offered our annual report preparation but we didn’t get that. We’re still compiling a bunch of spreadsheets and going from there.”