Marion County Clerk

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Posted by Rachel Raymond

Topic(s): Success Stories, Budget Book

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Marion County Clerk prepares 3 Budget Books of more than 1,000 pages in only 8 hours, start to finish.

Project: Budget Book Automation
Organization: Marion County Clerk
Solutions: Caseware Working Papers + custom scripting
Budget Book: 2022-23 Adopted Line-Item Budget
2022/23 - 2026/27 Adopted CIP

With a small team of just five people and a billion-dollar budget, Marion County has always understood the necessity of technology to allow its team to do more with less and do it quickly. Having worked first with GovMax, and then switching to Tyler Munis for budget creation, the group decided that Munis budget book automation capabilities were insufficient. To extend Munis abilities such that the output would meet the needs of the County Commissioner, $150,000 worth of customization was estimated. Unprepared to pay the initial and any ongoing costs for subsequent updates/changes, the team started looking for alternative options.


The whole package

The team was introduced to Caseware and F.H. Black & Company Incorporated (FHB). Out-of-the-box, the Caseware solution had a lot of what the county was looking for, and they soon learned that public sector experts at FHB would fill the gaps making the perfect solution for the organization.

We interviewed Audrey Fowler, Budget Director at Marion County, to learn more about the project.

Why not just use spreadsheets?

To this day, we still regularly speak with finance and budget departments that prepare their financial reports using some combination of spreadsheets, word processors, and publishing tools. Having made it our mission to replace these disjointed solutions with purpose-built database-driven ones, we are always curious why organizations choose to use spreadsheets. So, when we asked Audrey why she chose not to use spreadsheets, we knew she was a kindred spirit, and her fear was real. It's a fear that our team of Principal Consultants know all too well and have experienced firsthand during their time in public sector finance and budget departments, the fear that one or more of the thousands of points of entry is incorrect. That errors have propagated throughout the reports and that they missed it.

”I would never dream of publishing a book from an excel file, not at 700 pages”

Audrey Fowler, Budget Director at Marion County Clerk

Automation by necessity

Obtaining buy-in, allocating budget, and setting aside time for an IT project in public sector finance and budget departments is always challenging. And even when all of these things are in place, IT projects often fail, resulting in wasted time and money; more importantly, it drains enthusiasm for change. With the difficulty and risk involved, it's no wonder many organizations are hesitant to take on the challenge despite the rewards of a successful project. When we asked Audrey about the county's decision-making process, it was immediately apparent that the budget team was very motivated and that this project was a means to an end.

"I don’t have 40 hours to spend in a week on putting the book together... I have to spend the money on the automation, the technology to get things done. Otherwise, I can’t get my job done."


Getting exactly what you want

Being no stranger to IT projects and having versed herself in what solutions were available and suitable, Audrey knew what she wanted. She also knew that to meet her needs precisely, she needed an implementation specialist to guarantee a successful and optimal implementation.

Audrey wanted a two-step process for preparing a visually appealing and accurate book:

  1. Import Data, 
  2. Click 3 buttons to generate the books.

By implementing the FHB method complemented by custom scripting, Marion County got exactly what it wanted and needed.

"The implementation was fantastic, very responsive... I was a little skeptical at first, but they [FHB] made a believer out of me, and it worked!”


What does preparing your budget books look like today?

"All three books are fully scripted... it's an 8-hour workday, start to finish"

 

For more on this topic(s), see: Success Stories, Budget Book

Originally Posted on 07 December, 2022

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