POTSDAM – The village board chose Monday evening to purchase new budget software from Clear Gov. The discussion prior to the vote saw a trustee and the treasurer butting heads over previous village financial reporting.
The proposal was adopted 4-1, with curator Monique Tirion voting against.
Isabelle Gates-Shult, the village treasurer, who assumed the role this past year and is tasked with building the village budget, introduced the software to the board before it was approved.
When she took over the treasurer’s position, she said she saw a need to overhaul the budgeting process to improve efficiency.
“Concerns have been raised at previous board meetings about the transparency of the village’s finances. I agree with past practices in this regard,” Gates-Shult noted. “This prompted months of research on my part to correct this issue.”
The village must pay a one-time setup fee of $4,320 that covers onboarding, staff training and data migration to the new system.
In addition, a prorated subscription fee of $9,986.67 will be required to cover the remaining village fiscal year. Starting June 1, they will be charged an annual subscription fee of $17,120.
Gates-Shult said the ClearGov software would not only improve transparency and governance processes, but also promote better communication between village officials regarding budget matters.
Vinnie Petracca of ClearGov Inc. also spoke to the board via Zoom and talked about the features of the software.
“We aim to make this software not only user-friendly for you and your team, but also easily accessible to the public when they share information,” he said.
He explained that the software would simplify access to past budget figures and actual expenses.
“This tool greatly emphasizes collaboration, as Isabel mentioned,” added Petracca.
The program would facilitate the flow of information from authorized budget requesters, department heads, village treasurers and board members into a dashboard and generate comprehensive reports.
“This software will greatly streamline the budgeting process,” confirmed Petracca.
Trustee Monique Tirion and Gates-Schult got into a heated exchange about how the village has been reporting its actual expenses and income over the past several years and what impact it might have to put all of the village’s financial data into Clear Gov.
“In particular, what I’m concerned about is due to unfortunate circumstances, we the public and I the administrator are unable at this time to access the actual expenditures over the past several years and the revenues over the past several years,” said Tyrion. “We don’t have budget reporting with actual expenses, and that’s a question I need answered before I’ll approve this… I agree we need it. I’m not sure we’re not able to give you what you need.”
Tirion later clarified that the village only has “two sets of data” over the past five years for actual annual expenditures and revenues — 2018 and 2019.
Gates-Schult said the village has all of its financial information generated by accountants that would go into the new system.
“You can prove spending and revenue data to Clear Gov, but not the board. It’s our fault. We dropped the ball six years ago, seven years ago,” Tirion said.
Gates-Schult said Tirion has not brought that question to her.
“Not once have you approached for an interview,” said the cashier.
“I seem to step on people’s toes,” Tirion said. I’m sorry…if I don’t come to you, it’s because I’m aware that I’m making you uncomfortable with my style.”
“The information is there. It has to be pulled from a variety of sources. Those sources exist. We give it to … Clear Gov and they import it,” Administrator Abby D. Lee said.
“Wouldn’t that be unreasonable … shouldn’t we get an overview of where the money has been spent?” Tirion said.
Gates-Schult said the scant registration happened under previous treasurers, and she is trying to avoid repeating past mistakes.
“We can’t go back … I’m trying to move forward. I’m trying to move effectively. I need the support of Trustee Tirion to do that,” she said.
“She didn’t create that. It’s our supervisory issue,” says curator Alexandra Jacobs-Wilke, who will move up to the mayor’s seat in January.
“I’m glad to hear they can [extract] data somehow for this year. Could it also be [extracted]placed in our 2024 budget … now that ’23 is over, since May 31 is it done?” Tirion asked. “We should be able to include FY ’23 now in our current budget report.”
“It was my understanding of the ’24-’25 budget that we should be having this discussion for a long time,” Gates-Schult said. “I’m looking to give you more transparency.”
Petracca said it’s typical for Clear Gov customers to provide three to five years of data, but “there’s no requirement.”