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Politics & Government

City/County Financial Collaboration Advancing Despite Some Difficulties

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The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) pushed for years for the City of Pittsburgh to upgrade its information technology systems, so it could better cooperate with the county.

The ongoing effort between the city and county to collaborate on financial management and functional consolidation seems to be paying off.

“We’ve been spotlighted nationally for the work, but we also believe we’re at a critical juncture, where for us to really realize the full potential of the system we really need to look at greater investment,” said Allegheny County Controller Chesla Wagner.

Wagner gave a progress update to the ICA, one of two state panels overseeing the city’s finances. She said the city’s general ledger has been live on the system since January of this year.

“The current phase, city payroll, is going to be done within the service center, through the controller’s office starting in January 2013. So throughout the course of 2013 that’s going to save the city approximately $750,000 a year in an outside vendor contract,” said Wagner.

She added this collaboration is a long-term effort and is something that takes many years, having already been a project in the works in county government for more than ten years. Wagner said while there has been progress, she believes the effort is at a critical juncture, and more investment is needed in resources to maintain the momentum. She said one of the biggest challenges currently is limited resources.

Since 2002 the county’s JD Edwards Financial Management System has been used to streamline accounting systems, and improve transparency and efficiency. She said eventually she’d like to see the model could be used to help other local government organizations, including authorities, municipalities, and school districts, as it’s already shown it can save money.

“It means being able to measure what it costs to put another police officer on the street, to really understand what the costs of operating government, especially in modern times, are,” said Wagner, “and I think it’s really important that our governments be operating in the most modern and efficient way possible.”