Colorado system simplifies budgeting

Colorado is rolling out a Web-based budget reporting system that promises

to shave time and effort from the budgeting process.

The public safety department's controller, Dan Frelund, said under the

new system, collecting and reporting information on a budget item would

take about a half hour — instead of two weeks. The system impressed officials

so much that it will be used statewide.

Frelund developed the system using Microsoft Corp. SQL Server 7.0 and

WebFocus, a Web-based reporting tool developed by Information Builders Inc.

He introduced it to his department a year ago for less than $100,000.

"We get nightly extracts from the state financial system and load it

into the SQL Server databases," he said. "Once loaded, managers can pull

their budgets, see what their budget is and what's been [spent]. And then

if they want to see detailed transactions...all they have to do is click

on the expenditure amount."

He said state patrol office staffs, which manage their own budgets,

used to have to wait six weeks after the close of an accounting period to

review their budgets. The new system allows managers to view timely information.

Under the old statewide accounting system, introduced 11 years ago,

Frelund said only those familiar with the mainframe system could access

information. If departments needed information, they had to print out reports,

re-enter the data in a separate database and then manipulate it.

"One of my goals is to demystify the whole financial arena and be able

to allow program managers — non-accountants — to be able to understand their

financials," he said.

Since the system is Web-based, hardly any training is required, he said.

Users enter their log-in name and password, then automatically see data

downloaded for their specific department. He said the system has helped

his staff members use their time more efficiently.

Planned upgrades include allowing departments to access and analyze

five years worth of data.

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