Wyoming, Web eases budget filing

Wyoming's state budget office has upgraded its information systems to allow agencies to submit their budgets and narratives via the Web.

For now, a limited number of agencies can use the system, which was successfully tested in February. In the future, all of the state's 90 or so agencies will be able to access the Budget Analysis Reporting System via the Internet, using Canaveral iQ management software from New Moon Systems Inc.

"One of the biggest problems we had here in Wyoming is we allow different brands of hardware and software being used by agencies and different versions as well," said Art Burgess, the state budget director (ai.state.wy.us/budget).

The system was developed by Roseville, Calif.-based Affinity Global Solutions Inc. and uses an Oracle Corp. database server along with three application servers. It is highly secure and allows users to print documents on any printer. The three application servers are load-balanced, meaning the system's workload and user capacity are evenly distributed among the servers, Burgess said.

State officials hope the new system will reduce errors, cut the time it takes to prepare the state's biennial budget and enable state workers to focus on their core responsibilities.

"In the past, our budget preparation system was a mainframe application that was focused on Cobol," Burgess said. "The system we had was 25 years old, and it could only be used by people in the budget division. It didn't have any kind of word processing capabilities.

"With a 25-year-old system, the other thing we were looking at was that at some point in time, it was likely to fail, and whether or not we could recover from that failure was a question."

Previously, the division would send out a workbook explaining to agencies how to put their budgets together, he said. Agencies would complete the books and return them in either electronic or paper form. Because agencies used different word processing software, their submissions would have to be printed out. Analysts would then have to manually key the information into the system, he said.

When agencies and departments made revisions to their budgets, additional hard copies were provided, adding to some confusion about which budget was the latest version. Sometimes when budgets were printed from desktop computers, collated and hand-stamped, the wrong narratives were printed and sometimes pages were out of order, he added.

"As we were trying to present budgets to the legislature and the governor, these kinds of errors detracted from the main focus. Not to say it was rampant, but these things did happen," Burgess said.

The state is preparing a supplemental budget, and 198 employees have permission to use the system. He said the system is averaging about 20 users simultaneously without any hitches. It is set up to handle 75 concurrent users, which can be expanded, he added.

Burgess said the real test will begin next July when the state prepares its next biennial budget.

The total cost of deploying the system, including hardware and software, was $750,000, with funds approved by the legislature in March 2001, he said.


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