The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


July 16, 2013

For City Hall, spending a little to save a lot

— Should we shout out “fantastic”? Or criticize with “what took so long”?

Either way, the bottom line is that the news is very good for city of Johnstown taxpayers. So let’s simply call for “show us more.”

Our Dave Sutor reported last week that about $17,000 in phone-system upgrades are expected to save city government nearly $60,000 annually.

Now that’s something to talk about.

An antiquated package included about 300 phone lines. That despite the fact only about 150 individuals work for the city – and most of them don’t use phones on a daily basis.

Even more shocking was the fact that this was costing taxpayers $5,500 a month. The new system, being installed by LaurelNet, is expected to cost $600 a month.

“The motivation was that through performing a phone-system audit, we realized that we had a ton more phone lines than we actually needed,” city Finance Director Carlos Gunby said.

Good move indeed.

Earlier this month, in reporting that the city had wound up more than $212,000 in the black for 2012, City Manager Kristen Denne credited technology upgrades and training initiatives.

“We’ve made significant strides in modernizing the operations here – updating software, updating the modules, training the staff in financial procedures – and really are trying to come in accordance with all Governmental Accounting Standards Board recommendations,” she said.

“We are bringing our system into the new era, so to speak.”

The strategy appears to be paying huge dividends.

Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Homeowners are keenly aware of that. The problem for the city has been finding extra dollars to invest in new technology.

While that’s truly unfortunate, we applaud officials at City Hall for examining all avenues to save tax dollars and to move financial outcomes in the right direction.

We hope other local governments take heed to what has been accomplished at City Hall.

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