City anticipates online billing by March 2019
Published 11:14 am Wednesday, December 26, 2018
The City of Franklin expects to be able to offer residents the ability to pay utility and tax bills online by March 2019.
Plans have been in the works since 2014 to convert the city’s billing software from its current AS400 mainframe to a point-and-click graphical user interface system developed by the company Edmunds & Associates, which will include the capability of paying city bills via Franklin’s website.
“It’s been a snafu from the beginning; it’s just taken us a while to get it all together,” said City Councilman Benny Burgess.
One issue, he explained, was that the software had to be custom built for Franklin. The reason council decided to purchase software from Edmunds that did not exist at the time, he said, was because it was considerably cheaper than the alternative.
“We didn’t think it would take four years to get it in, or we would not have gone for the cheaper version,” Burgess said.
The “real issue” he added, was that the city, until this year, had not pushed Edmunds to fulfill its contractual obligation. Burgess explained that the company had been lagging in fulfilling its part of the agreement.
But now, “We’re pushing really hard to get it done,” he said. “It’s dragged on long enough. I think we’ve got the right people in place now.”
Burgess, who was one of the few council members serving in 2014 when the Edmunds contract was signed, said he could not recall the cost specified in the contract. However, Interim City Manager Clarence Monday said at a recent council meeting that the city had only paid for what it has received thus far.
“If you go back to July 2014, it was well stated that Edmunds did not have the tax modules that we needed,” said Commissioner of Revenue Brenda Rickman during the City Council’s Oct. 22 meeting. “They were going to write those modules.”
In October, representatives from Franklin discussed about traveling to Galax and other localities already using Edmunds to observe how the software was supposed to function, and to get advice from that city’s government on how to configure the software to meet Franklin’s needs.
Burgess cautioned, however, that the solution was not as simple as simply copying Galax’s version of the software to Franklin.
“We pro-rate our automobile tax, so if you buy a car in the middle of the year, we charge you half,” he explained, pointing out that Galax does not pro-rate, and that configuring the software to understand pro-rating was “something that Edmunds needs to build.”
While Burgess could not say whether the cost of the trip to Galax would come from Edmunds or city tax dollars, he said he believed the cost of the trip was “minimal.”
[Editor’s note: This version corrects the earlier posted article, which incorrectly listed city treasurer Dinah Babb as the commissioner of revenue. Further, the story incorrectly stated that city representatives had traveled to Galax and other localities in November.