Accounting software purchase to bring transparency

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
Shawnee resident Kennedy Allison, 4, and her doll wait patiently to call the Shawnee City Commission meeting to order as Mayor Ed Bolt supervises.

This week Shawnee City Commissioners unanimously approved authorization for Finance Director Ashley Neel to enter into a contract with OpenGov, Inc. for budgeting and transparency software.

The first-year cost will be about $99,000 to get the program up and running, and the annual licensing for the next two years are expected at just more than $41,000 each.

“This is software that will help with our budgeting process and transparency for the city,” she said.

The budgeting portion, she said, is more internally focused, which will be used to automate the city's current process of having to manually send spreadsheets back-and-forth in emails.

“It will mean that I can literally forward the data from our accounting system, then it will fill out the past two years' actuals, this year's budget, etc., send that to the department heads and they will be able to do their budget requests and send it back to me,” she said. “That alone will probably save me at least two weeks of solid work.”

The system will be a webpage, featuring an interactive budget book, she said, so instead of the public pulling up 100 pages they will be able to look only at what they are interested in, such as budget by salaries, personal services, etc.

“We can show past years, we can show graphs and make the budget completely interactive and much more user friendly,” Neel said.

The transparency platform will give citizens a way to be able to easily take a look at the city's finances, she said.

“It will be connected to our accounting system so it will automatically refresh,” she said. “No longer will you have to wait for me to do a budget report once a month, any day you want you can go in and see a fresh look at where our finances stand.”

The program also can create individual web pages, for instance, a page can be built to focus only on a particular capital improvement project, Neel said.

“You can write a little description, you can put in a map, use graphs and data, attach documents for the public to see,” she said.

Mayor Ed Bolt said he believes this program is something people would really like to see.

“It's going to give people things that they've always wanted that we've never been able to have,” he said.

The whole idea is that it's all going to be right there — in almost real time — for everybody to see, he said.

“It's your (Shawnee residents') money, you have every right to know what's going on and what the financial condition of the city is,” he said. “That's everybody's business.”

He said he and his fellow commissioners are really pushing that level of transparency and access for everybody.

“The other thing that's exciting about it is how you can see the progress of all these capital projects on webpages,” he said. “I get those questions all the time.”

He said residents will be able to see that progress at any time.

“We're excited that people are going to be able to see all that stuff,” he said.

Neel said when the program is implemented it will be linked to the city website, at shawneeok.org.

Watch for updates.