The county is installing a new $795,000 accounting system that once fully installed will allow the public to track the county’s financial transactions, said Todd Hutchinson, county financial director.

Opening Alachua County’s financial books and making them more accessible to the public on the internet is taking longer than expected.

The county is installing a new $795,000 accounting system that once fully installed will allow the public to track the county’s financial transactions, said Todd Hutchinson, county financial director.

County officials expected to go live with the system at the beginning of this year after converting its human resources and payroll systems to the new software, but that conversion process has been delayed because "human resource and payroll functions are just complex software functions and the county itself is a complex organization with a lot of different business units and a lot of different payroll rules," Hutchinson said.

The delay hasn’t increased the cost of the new system, and final payment to Tyler Technologies, the Texas-based company that owns the software, won’t be made until the conversion is complete and the system is running, Hutchinson said.

A test will be conducted next week on the human resources and payroll systems to determine what else must be done to complete the conversion to the new financial system, which Hutchinson hopes will be operational between August and October.

If the conversion can’t be completed by the end of October, the county will suspend the work until early 2019 to take care of its end-of-year financial duties, Hutchinson said.

Also, if the human resource and payroll conversion is delayed beyond October, the county will turn its attention to making its financial transactions more accessible to the public, Hutchinson said.

"We wanted to have all of our systems converted to the new system before we went ahead with the public access piece, but we will go ahead with that if there is a further delay with converting human resource and payroll functions," Hutchinson said.

Once it's running, the public access system will feature portals that will allow the public to view various county transactions. It will be available on the Clerk of the Court’s website and be similar to an online system operated by the city of Hallandale Beach in Broward County that allows the public to view transactions by category, department, fund, government area, vendor and more, Hutchinson said.

The new system, partly installed since 2016, uses Microsoft technology and can be accessed from any secure internet connection, Hutchinson said. The old system, which the county had been using since 1995, used IBM technology that required the accounting software to be installed as an application on each desktop computer.

The software for the new system should last 15 years and will receive periodic upgrades, Hutchinson said.

Instead of hiring outside consultants to handle the conversion process, the county decided to handle the task in-house to save up to $1 million or more, Hutchinson said.

There’s a lot involved with mapping out how the codes in the current system are going to fit into the way the new financial system codes and operations work, Hutchinson said, and mapping and converting all of those hourly pay, annual leave, sick leave, health benefits, Florida retirement and other codes is complicated.

Though the process is taking longer than expected, the county is still committed to making information more accessible to the public, Hutchinson said.

"Our goal is to have general information on our site we think the public will be interested in and present it in a way that is very user-friendly when we go live so people can easily view vendor payments, see how much the county is spending on court services or environmental protection or public safety or whatever it is they are interested in," Hutchinson said.