New $6.3M software to streamline county budget process

New $6.3M software to streamline county budget process

El Paso County is in the process of installing some new software.

The $6.3 million program replaces a current system that's nearly 30 years old.

"That tool alone won't solve the performance-based budgeting challenge that we have," said County Judge Veronica Escobar. "But I think the new chief administrator, coupled with the new software, between those two, we're going to really be able to dig deep into the organization."

Commissioners said the program will help them monitor the efficiency of various county programs and improve communication among departments. That will be especially helpful come budget time, as a newly-created county budget department will have to work with the auditor's office. Auditors will likely lose some employees to the new department, as that budget department will now be the one making recommendations to commissioners court.

"The budget is our No. 1 responsibility as elected officials," said Precinct Three Commissioner Vince Perez. "So it's really important that we have good oversight, that there's accountability. And ultimately I think this will result in a better budget process. Not just during budget time, but during the entire year. I think you'll see more strategic planning, more forward thinking. That way we can tackle the problems that are facing us in the future."

It can be difficult for commissioners to hold departments fiscally accountable with the auditor's office's current budget system. Four hefty volumes comprise one fiscal year. Nothing but bone-dry spreadsheets and line items -- no section tabs, either.

But El Paso will soon have a web-based budgeting system -- along the same lines as the one used by Bexar County, with conversational charts, tables and summaries that tell a budget story.

"Improve our ability, not only to ensure that our employees have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs better," Perez said. "But it's going to better inform commissioners, it's going to give us the data and the tools that we need to make better decisions. And ultimately it's going to benefit the public, because they'll have access to information, charts, data that's easy to understand, that'll be easily accessible on the web. So it's really a win-win for everybody."

The county hired a new fleet manager about 90 days ago. He's already identified nearly $750,000 in savings over the next year. Perez said the new software should help the county continue to find efficiencies and do more proactive budgeting outside of just budget time. The system should be completely implemented by the end of 2015.

"It's taking common-sense business practices that work in the private sector," Escobar said, "and integrating them into an organization that has been antiquated."

comments powered by Disqus