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Plattsburgh, N.Y., Eyes Budget and Performance Software

The software, from OpenGov, is $43,000 annually with a $15,000 implementation fee, and it would allow the city to bring all its data into one location. It could also simplify timekeeping work.

by Mckenzie Delisle, Press-Republican / March 8, 2019

(TNS) — The City of Plattsburgh, N.Y., is eyeing a budgeting-and-performance cloud operator that would cost $43,000 annually.

OpenGov representatives presented their software at a special meeting of the Common Council Tuesday night.

Account Executive David Spolidoro said the system, which would also charge a $15,000 implementation fee, would feature all City of Plattsburgh data on a single platform that could be updated in real time.

Benefits of such software are in the budgeting and planning, operational-performance and citizen-engagement sectors, he said.

Using conservative percentages gathered from current customer data, OpenGov could save the city more than $49,000 in reporting and budget-processing time alone, the account executive added.

Mayor Colin Read said if the software finds the efficiencies within the City of Plattsburgh that have been documented within many of the firm's some 2,000 municipalities, the benefits could be even greater.

"The annual return is about 10 times that annual cost," he said. "However, there have been cases in the city in the past when software has been incompletely implemented and has not generated the promised savings.

"The city needs to be confident in the advantages and have the resolve to take full advantage of the efficiencies if we are to proceed."

Outdated Technology

OpenGov is headquartered in Silicone Valley but operates in all 50 states.

Spolidoro said the firm was founded out of the 2008 financial crisis.

"Our founder was working with grant funding out in California. He was working with cities and towns out in California that were having a really difficult time," he said.

"Among a lot of reasons, one of them was outdated technology," he continued. "So, we are 100 percent on a mission to power more effective and accountable government."

Not One-Size-Fits-All

The OpenGov platform displays annual budget information specific to each municipality, OpenGov East Coast Regional Director Eric DiProspero said.

"Each of our over 2,000 customers is set up uniquely in the platform," he said. "It's done on the true-fold financial structure here, of the city.

"It's not a one-size-fits-all solution."

That data, accessible anywhere via the cloud system, would show the city's overall budget standing, each department's budget standing, individual budget proposals and their impact to the overall budget and a one-line description of each fund.

Currently, in preparation for city budget discussions, department heads gather yearly expenses and future goals to present to the council.

"From a department head standpoint, we're actually going to be saving them a lot of time and increase the visibility through the process," Spolidoro said.

"The only thing that we're actually asking your department head to fill in is what is the proposal adjustment that they want to ask for the coming year."

Within Departments

OpenGov also helps departments to do their own fund shuffling, DiProspero added.

"So, stretching their budget dollars a little bit further," he said. "Just because something was $100,000 last year doesn't necessarily mean it has to be $100,000 or an increase going forward.

"It allows for your departments to think very critically about the budget and think more strategically overall for the city."

The program also offers a "what-if" scenario option to input potential expenses and view their five- or 10-year impacts, Spolidoro said.

City Chamberlain Richard Marks said the mayor likes to look at forecasts such as this.

"That's going to be a beneficial tool for him," he said.

Marks also liked the open access, because, currently, he is the primary budget resource.

"The best part about this, that I can see, is that you, sitting there," he said towards Read and the city councilors who attended the session, "can go get your own information."

Public Component

But that information wouldn't be exclusive to the council and city employees; OpenGov also has a public-facing component.

"This is about telling your story to the community," Spolidoro explained. "We're not about putting a bunch of data out there, because, as you know, that's going to just cause more questions than it's going to answer.

"We allow you to control what data and what level of data that you release out to the community, and we allow you to do it in a narrative manner," he continued.

"It's about controlling the narrative and educating the community about why you're making a certain decision and, then, here's the data points about why you are making those decisions."

Eliminates Duplication

The cloud-based operator could bring the city's time-sheet system up to date, as well.

Spolidoro said each City of Plattsburgh department has its own way of monitoring employees' workdays — some using pen and paper.

"They are sending that paper copy to the Clerk's Office and the clerk is entering that into a data warehouse or a spreadsheet somewhere," he said.

Mayor Read added that then the sheet gets printed and re-entered by the central clerk.

"From there, (that data) just kind of sits, and you're not getting any real information," Spolidoro said. "The idea is, that's important data. You want to see that if you're making decisions for the city.

"Let's get rid of the duplication of efforts. Let's capture that data at one time."

But just because the time recording would be under one system doesn't mean it would be uniform.

"Department by department, we can build a form that these folks can fill in that will be easier for them than writing it down on a sheet of paper, or at least as easy," he said. "We'll do it specifically for those departments.

"It's very flexible."

©2019 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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