The Government Services Center in Hamilton. GREG LYNCH/FILE

Butler County saving tax dollars with collaboration and technology

County Auditor Roger Reynolds says new tax software the county is purchasing will allow him to further reduce staff in his office. Reports generated under the 20-year-old software can take two to three days to complete because of all the manual reconciliation and double-checking that is required. He says the new software will do the work in a couple hours, allowing him to eliminate some positions.

“I do anticipate reducing staff,” he said. “It allows us to reduce labor costs as folks retire, there isn’t the need to replace that position. The new software will reduce errors and improve accuracy as well and certainly that is important as well.”

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When Reynolds took office in 2008, there were 78 employees. He has eliminated 43 positions, bringing his staff down to 35, largely by taking advantage of technology, he said.

Reynolds and county Treasurer Nancy Nix share the software and also the maintenance costs. Nix and Reynolds have been telling the County Commission for several years that replacing the outdated software is imperative. Nix said they have “been limping along” as long as they could, but with all the security threats and other issues it’s time to upgrade.

“Our real estate tax software system is 20 years old. It’s like using a rotary dial in an iPhone world,” Nix said. “Our tax system software is no longer supported by the vendor. We’re having to do all these work arounds manually and we have not updated to the newest version because it’s two or three times more expensive per year just for maintenance.”

The bulk of the cost for the new software is the annual maintenance fee, which totals $390,000. Nix, who has a small office and small budget, told the Journal-News Reynolds has agreed to pick up a bigger portion of the bill. The split under the old maintenance agreement was 60 percent to the auditor and 40 percent for her office. Reynolds has agreed to absorb 80 percent of the cost, or $312,000, so her cost will go from $61,255 to $77,800 next year. Under the old arrangement she would have had to pay about $155,000 annually.

Since Reynolds pays for his portion of the maintenance out of his real estate, not the general fund, there will be a savings for the taxpayers.

“Due to the auditor’s fiscal management, he is able to take more of that on the chin instead of having to rely on the general fund,” she said. “(The general fund is) where mine would have come from.”

Nix is also saving money by partnering with the sheriff’s office. Her office uses Brinks Security to handle daily bank deposits, but that bill was going to double from around $450 to $900 a month. If all goes according to plan, when the Brinks contract expires next year, court deputies from the sheriff’s office will escort her office staff to the bank.

“We’re just such a small office that when a category of expense nearly doubles we don’t have room,” she said. “Butler County budgets so tightly, which is a good thing, but there’s just not a lot of wiggle room in the treasurer’s office. So we are greatly appreciative that the sheriff was open to doing this.”

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Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said there are 20 court services deputies spread across the county in the Government Services Center, where Nix’s office is located, at the Area Courts, Juvenile Court and some other county offices.

Dwyer said the sheriff won’t charge Nix for the security detail — the sheriff’s budget for next year is tentatively set at $39.5 million and Nix’s is $1.7 million — like some of the other offices that require full-time sheriff’s deputies.

“If Nancy said, ‘Look we’ve had threats to our office and we want someone here for security at our office,’ that would be a different conversation,” Dwyer said. “So this is just a minimal event, it doesn’t take long, it’s just a little difficult because you have to find a body to push that way for an hour.”

Nix said it is not just her office, Reynolds or the sheriff that collaborate for cost savings.

“I think the county in general works together very well to save on costs and provide unity and a same goal in mind to be fiscally responsible,” Nix said.

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