Cheaper offer halts new Lycoming County budget software contract

A drastically cheaper offer for online budget software has caused Lycoming County to temporarily halt an approved contract with OpenGov. 

The OpenGov contract would provide an online system that members of the public can use to view not only the finished budget, but also quarterly spending by each department throughout the year. 

“It’s a good way to measure performance,” said Matt McDermott, director of administration for the county. 

The contract was approved during the June 27 commissioners meeting, pending official signatures the next day. 

After OpenGov’s offer was made public, ClearGov contacted Commissioner Jack McKernan with a counter offer of $7,000 per year, a drastic decrease from the nearly $60,000 annual subscription that OpenGov charges. 

However, McKernan said ClearGov does not appear to offer a product on the same level as OpenGov – and McDermott agrees. 

“It’s more than just the system. It’s the support system that comes with it,” McDermott said. 

At the June vote, Commissioner Tony Mussare opposed the contract with OpenGov due to the speedy decision and the lack of a public vetting process. 

“That’s why we should have waited,” Mussare said. “I think it’s wise to see what’s out there and compare.” 

But he also agreed that ClearGov’s product, while cheaper, does not have the same quality as that of OpenGov. 

McDermott said the county contacted OpenGov over a year ago. An open bid process was not required, he said, because software systems may be purchased through a professional service agreement with the county instead of a request for proposals, also known as a bid process. 

Despite the delay, McDermott said he hopes the county will make a decision by mid-August and  still will be able to provide online budget viewing to the public for the 2020 budget. 

McKernan is not convinced a decision can be made as soon as August, but he added that “we can’t fool around too long.”

Regardless of which company is awarded the contract, the county plans to enable each of its departments to start using it in 2020. Spending details will be uploaded throughout the year.

Therefore, McDermott said, if a certain amount is budgeted each year for overtime, the system will show how much of that is used throughout the year. 

“It’s a real-time view of what’s actually in the system,” he said. 

In addition to the annual fee, OpenGov charges a $33,000 setup fee. ClearGov’s set-up charge is still unknown, McKernan said.

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