Commissioners approve budget clarity software

In a 2-1 vote, the Lycoming County commissioners approved spending $94,949, and a further $236,000 over five years, to purchase software that will allow departments and the public to track real-time spending of county funds.

The move is conditional, pending final solicitor approval. Acting early allowed the county to save $7,000, said officials.

The OpenGov software will allow anyone to clearly view the county’s budget, spending trends and history, as well as a payroll breakdown of federal, state and county contributions.

Commissioner Tony Mussare, who voted against the motion, said his “nay” vote was two-fold: The proposal should have been given more time to allow for public input, and he didn’t believe the money was budgeted for.

“Why do we have to do it today?” he said. “Is the additional $7,000 savings worth it, versus vetting it to the public?”

Despite his opposition to the process of approving the “expensive” purchase of the software, the actual product is a “nice tool,” he said.

“We have a $26 million payroll,” said Mussare, and no one is sure how much the taxpayers actually pay when grants, federal and state money are incorporated.

“That’s pretty sad,” he said. “It’s hard to decipher that off of our budget. This will break it down, not only for us, but for the public.”

Commissioners Rick Mirabito and Jack McKernan both voted in favor of the spending.

“I think it’s answering the call that has been out there by the public,” said McKernan.

Although the expense was not budgeted for, McKernan said it fits within the contingency or public affairs line item.

“The way I’m looking at it is we’re hiring a person that comes without any time clock or any benefits or anything else. I believe that having this is going to help all of our department heads,” he said.

Though the software will not be used to any great degree as the county prepares for budget season, it will be used for the public to observe the process, said McKernan.

Mirabito said his advocacy goes back to his freshman year in the state legislature and, although a bill only allowing the public to view spending in a 6 or 8 month delay passed, he has always believed in an open government.

“I’m mostly excited for the public. Because I think it’s an important tool for the public to be able to understand spending,” he said. “Our goal of doing this is to hopefully get more transparency and more understanding by the public of where the money goes.”

In other business, the commissioners:

•Approved of $96,680 for Postler & Jaekle Boiler for the purchase and installation of two boilers in the county prison.

•Approved of $18,504 to be paid to the Essential Solutions agreement, used in the 911 calling system.

•Approved of $39,180 to be paid to Eagle Truck Equipment Inc. for five recycling containers.

•Approved of $26,842 for a 2019 Mitzubishi FGC25 Forklift from Equipment Depot.

•Approved of $10,737 for three reinforced, stackable concrete box extensions from Deihl Vault and Precast Inc.