Daily Egyptian

Changes proposed for city council

By Hayley Dillon, @HayleyDillon_DE

With outdated technology and concerns about efficiency, the Carbondale city council is contemplating changes to improve city government.

Carbondale’s financial software, GEMS, is about 13 to 14 years old and will soon cease to be supported by its developer, City Manager Kevin Baity said.

This change could help the city handle tax dollars more efficiently.

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While new software costs money, it will eventually lead to savings and a more efficient government, Baity said.

On January 20th there was a special city council meeting to discuss   finances and potential new revenue sources, Jane Adams proposed a packaged liquor tax and Lee Fronabarger proposed a food and beverage tax. A vote for the taxes could take place at the next meeting on March 24th.

Baity said if the taxes were approved by the city council, a change in financial software would need to follow as well.

“If the city enacts a local food and beverage tax and package liquor tax, any new system will have to have the capability to track, invoice and monitor these new revenue sources,” he wrote in an email.

The 1 percent food and beverage tax being proposed would affect all prepared foods, such as food served in restaurants or food at grocery store delis, and would generate about $800,000 a year, said mayoral candidate Jane Adams.

The 1 percent packaged liquor tax would affect all places selling alcohol, such as liquor stores and bars.

Adams is a proponent of an update for the financial software.

“I have, for some time, urged staff to address the city’s increasingly obsolete financial software,” Adams said. “So I’m glad it is now being addressed.”

She said she feels a new software would save the city a lot of money and be much more effective.

Interim Mayor Don Monty and several other city council members agree.

Council members Lee Fronabarger and Jessica Bradshaw said they support the city updating its financial software and that an updated system could lead to savings in operational and personnel costs.

The council members have not decided on what financial software they will update to, but Baity said they have been researching.

“We have spoken with Harris, the company that owns GEMS,” he said. “They have an updated version and a new system. We will be looking at other suppliers as well before making a firm decision.”

The estimated cost for the new software is about $400,000, Baity said. The city will look at vendors and their products within the next couple of weeks or months.

Adams and Fronabarger also agreed a management review should be added to the Carbondale’s budget.

“A very thorough top to bottom study of city management procedures and policies was also to be included in the FY 2016 budget,” Fronabarger said. “Which could result in savings.”

These additions should be included in the next budget as the council has already discussed it before.

“This study, estimated by the City Manager to cost $60,000 would be conducted by an outside firm who may discover better ways to perform tasks or ask why is a certain procedure done in a certain way,” Fronabarger said.

The budget is still an issue for the city, and these are just some of the plans to help fix the deficit.

“Operations, procedures, and policies need to be reviewed often to create an efficient and cost-saving system to help balance the budget,” Fronabarger said.

The next Carbondale City Council meeting is March 24th. The council may come to a decision about the new possible taxes as well as more details about new financial software and the management review.

Hayley Dillon can be reached at [email protected]

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