Friday, 07 April 2017 05:41

City of Swift Current to upgrade software for new utility billing and finance system

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The City of Swift Current is purchasing new cloud-based software to upgrade the utility billing and financial management system.

Councillors approved a number of motions at a regular council meeting on March 27 to proceed with the software upgrade.
The City will enter into an agreement with Impac to replace the financial management system and utility billing software at a total cost of $954,000 plus GST. The City will also conclude a 60-month subscription agreement with Oracle at a cost of $1,635,512 plus GST.
The City is able to move ahead with the initiative to replace the software through a transfer of $364,000  from the 2019 capital financial management system project to the 2017 budget year.
“We won’t do that very often, but there was an opportunity here to make an investment in our financial management system this year that would save us over $600,000 in future years,” City General Manager of Corporate Services Kathy Hopfner said after the meeting. “It was good timing because our utility billing software required an upgrade to our financial system.”
The City uses one software system for the utility billing for all services, including electricity, water, sewer, garbage collection and recycling charges.
The billing that takes place through this software system generates about half of the City’s total revenue and it is therefore necessary to have up-to-date and reliable software.
“In two years, we forecast that the cost to upgrade that system would be $990,000 and because Impact and Oracle are partners in this, they’re giving us a discount to upgrade or replace our financial system with the utility billing system,” she said. “So if we waited, it would cost us more.”
The software upgrade is linked to cloud-based technology, which means the City will not be storing data on its own server. Instead the data for the utility billing and financial management system is stored on remote servers hosted by the service provider. The City will be paying an annual fee of $308,537 for this online portal, which will be higher than the current software maintenance fee of about $100,000 per year.
“As long as we use their software we will be paying an annual subscription fee, but the good thing is we will not be paying any capital cost going forward,” she said. “Our subscription fee keeps our financial software and our utility billing software and our portal current.”
According to Hopfner, the City’s intention is to have the utility billing software and the online portal as well as a portion of the financial management system up and running by the end of 2017.
“There will be more opportunities for our customers to make online payments, specifically for utility billing,” she said. “Currently people get their bills in the mail and once the system is implemented they will be able to get their bills electronically and make payments electronically as well.”
Residents will have the option to choose if they still want to continue to use the traditional billing method or transition to the optional online billing system.
“Our customers have been requesting more online services for a number of years, which is part of the reason that we’re moving,” she said.
The information that will be stored on the cloud-based utility and financial management software will be secure.
“That information will probably be more secure than what we have here at the City of Swift Current, mostly because with that organization their security software that they use is continuously being upgraded,” she said. “It will always be current, and they have a whole team of IT experts that maintain security on those cloud websites.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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