The recent acquisition of a local company by who has provided accounting software to the Carter County Finance Department took center stage yesterday morning at the county courthouse. Members of the county’s Financial Management Committee received a presentation from representatives of Saratoga Technologies about their purchase and a potential business relationship with the county.
Earlier this spring, Finance Director Ingrid Deloach informed members of the committee that the department’s software vendor—Bridge—had been acquired by Saratoga Technologies, which has local offices in Johnson City, Knoxville and Abingdon, Va. Prior to the buyout, the committee had been reviewing bids and service contracts from several companies seeking to obtain the finance department’s business.
After narrowing the list of potential vendors, including Tyler Technologies, Local Government and New World Systems, the financial management committee debated the pros and cons of an offer from Skyward, a software development company based in Wisconsin.
On a 3 to 4 vote, however, the committee members voted against Skyward’s proposal of a five-year deal which carried a total cost of $227,994. The company’s bid would have required an up-front cost of $142,795. The initial investment to the county was included in Skyward’s overall bid proposal.
For the first year of Skyward’s service, Deloach said the overall price tag for Carter County Schools was estimated at $115,190. Facing a budget shortfall for the upcoming school year, she added, “I can tell you the school system does not have the money in their budget right now to kick in for this cost.”
Following the committee’s decision to reject the bid, the members have since learned about Saratoga’s purchase of Bridge, which has provided accounting software to the Carter County Finance Department for several years. The finance director was asked to contact Saratoga to set up a presentation at Wednesday’s meeting at the county courthouse.
Representing Saratoga at yesterday’s meeting were Angela Corbin, the company’s Business Solutions Manager, Chief Financial Officer Whitney Miller and Senior Vice-President Alan Walters. The senior officers of the company provided general details on the services Saratoga provides, as well as fielded questions from members of the financial management committee.
Founded in 2001, Saratoga Technologies is primarily based in the East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia region. In addition to offering numerous software applications, Corbin explained the company provides “technology solutions” to area businesses. She stated Saratoga offers networking services, print management, printer and copier repair, telephone systems, voice/data line services, web development and hosting, as well as software programming, database services and web applications.
Since the June 1 acquisition, Corbin noted Saratoga has started the process of “wrapping our arms around Bridge. Their software developers and engineers have moved over to our company now, which has allowed us to begin integrating their services under our umbrella.”
During their recent discussions regarding the finance department’s accounting software, Deloach has expressed her concerns about their current program. She has noted on several occasions her anxiety about a possible software crash and obtaining the necessary customer support to resolve the issue. At their Wednesday meeting, the committee asked questions to the Saratoga officials about their plans to integrate the Bridge accounting software package into their IT and customer support services.
In the event the county chooses to seek a new software vendor, the Saratoga representatives explained they can still provide services to the finance department. Walters said that the company also offers hosting services for software packages in the event the vendor does not provide such service or the client does not wish to undertake such an effort. “We pride ourselves on working well with outside companies and we certainly have the ability to host this type of software package,” Walters stated.
When asked about the potential cost of Saratoga’s services by Financial Management Committee Chair Jo Ann Blankenship, Corbin stated it would be premature to make a quote at this time. Corbin added that Saratoga can provide the county with a technology review in order to determine the finance department’s software and hardware needs. She noted the tech review is a free service offered by their company.
In other business, the committee approved a new policy to address car accidents for county employees, department heads or elected officials while traveling in a county-owned vehicle on official business. Blankenship stated, “We have been looking at what to do if someone has an accident in a county-owned vehicle. These changes will be part of our overall travel policy. It will explain to employees and other county officials what the county will be liable for.”
Blankenship said the policy states the county will not be responsible in the event a vehicle is improperly used for non-official business and unapproved use of the county’s fuel account. She also explained that the county will not take financial responsibility if a car is towed, impounded, or if the driver is ticketed for a moving or parking violation. “The county will only be responsible for expenses related to mechanical operation of the vehicle, excluding the fuel level at the time of pickup and its cleanliness,” said Blankenship.
Should the county employee or officeholder operating the vehicle be involved in an accident, the policy states that they should contact the local law enforcement department to file a report. They are also expected to advise the finance director, as well as the department head or constitutional officer overseeing their department, within 24 hours of the accident.
Members of the financial management committee expressed their agreement with the accident policy. “I think this is a good policy,” said Commissioner Russell Kyte. “It is very well-written and thought out.”
The committee unanimously agreed to recommend the policy for approval by the Carter County Commission after County Commission Chairman Tom “Yogi” Bowers made a motion to accept the procedures. The county commission will conduct their next meeting on Monday morning at 9 a.m. in Elizabethton.