Brookfield officials this year are looking to complete an overhaul of village government’s information services department by ridding village hall of its 1983-vintage System 36 mainframe computer.
The village board earlier this year approved budgeting $125,000 in 2010 for the changeover. Over the next five years, village staff estimated that upgrading the technology at village hall will cost $400,000.
“It will incorporate each department in every way, so we can eliminate entire processes and make things more efficient,” said Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, who is also village hall’s IT director.
The System 36 is cumbersome to use, Sbiral said, and does not interface with other software the village uses for things like code enforcement and the police department’s records management system.
The village’s financial software is still part of the System 36 set up. Finance Director Doug Cooper said that the System 36 does not allow village department heads to track cash balances in real time. Every accounting journal entry has to be done manually.
“It requires a new file to be created rather than clicking a couple of buttons in a Windows-based system,” Sbiral said. “We’re manually loading journal entries into the system through a consultant.”
The limitations of the System 36 have been well documented by the village. The now-defunct Technology Committee in 2002 called the System 36 a “boat anchor” and recommended replacing the mainframe.
But it wasn’t until 2006 that village officials began a comprehensive effort to improve technology – things as simple as backing up files, establishing an e-mail system connecting all staff and replacing an obsolete phone system.
Since 2006, the village has also migrated its building department, permitting, payroll and police records to other web-based programs that are easy to use and integrate. Water billing is still done on the System 36, but water meter reading records are not.
Moving away from the System 36 will make it easier to get financial reports and will allow such user-friendly options as online bill payment or even online water use tracking for customers.
In April, the village board gave Sbiral and Cooper the green light to begin requesting proposals from software companies for the final phase of the changeover. Sbiral said that he and Cooper have been in touch with nine companies and should have a recommendation for the village board by July or August.
“We want to get at least one core component installed by the end of the fiscal year,” which ends Dec. 31, said Sbiral.