Santa Paula Times

Accounting system a focus of Monday’s Council budget talks

June 07, 2013
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council got a broad overview of the upcoming 2013-2014 proposed budget and is expected go over finances department by department before adopting the plan at the June 17 meeting.

The council agreed a planned June 10 special meeting would not be necessary, and Councilman Martin Hernandez, who had requested the study sessions, agreed as long as details were forthcoming. Hernandez also suggested that the city place the consultant’s slide presentation online for public access.

At the June 3 meeting the council considered a proposed budget for the next fiscal year that calls for revenue of $36.8 million and spending of $33.3 million. The council has been adopting the budget on a three-year cycle, with the initial cycle officially ending June 30.

Bringing much discussion was updating the city’s financial software, an issue that has been noted by the council in the past. 

Councilman Bob Gonzales said one good use of onetime revenues - such as the sale of the former wastewater treatment plant still being negotiated - would be an accounting system, a favored subject of Councilman Jim Tovias who was absent from the meeting. “I know he has stressed our accounting system is antiquated,” and the council - and the public - wants to be able to track and account for cash flow.

City Manager Jaime Fontes noted preliminary discussions with program provider Tyler Technologies of Texas showed the city is not using the system at full capacity. More training would be required and possibly some upgrades that would cost the city considerably less money - and save time - than a new system. Completion of the project would take more than a year, and as much as two years.

If a large expenditure can be avoided through enhanced training and software, “As long as it fills the bill I don’t have a problem with a that,” but, noted Gonzales, “My concern is we can extract information we want” without the problems now being experienced by developers and vendors. “I’ve gotten phone calls from people saying we can’t get an answer from the city” - that they made a “$100,000 payment or whatever” to the city   and are being told the city can’t locate the transaction.

After more discussion Mayor Ralph Fernandez suggested that the city speak to other municipalities using the same software to see “if it’s doing the job they want.” City Treasurer Sandy Easley told the council that Tyler, which bills itself as the nation’s largest provider of software to government agencies, provided the city’s accounting system software in 2007.

The proposed 2013-14 General Fund operating budget has $12.8 million in revenue and $12.1 million in expenses. Next fiscal year’s budget would leave Santa Paula with a General Fund reserve of $1.8 million, or 15 percent of the city’s operating budget.

Although the financial outlook was primarily positive, with increased revenue projections from sales and property taxes and increased building activity that would boost city fees, a discordant note was when the council learned the city owes its JPA (Joint Powers Agreement) liability insurance agency a whopping $2.55 million. Easley said the JPA wanted the payment over a six-year period, but the request to pay the funds over a decade was approved. “That saves us about $100,000 a year” on a bill that, Easley said, “was a shock.”