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Funding for computers, software part of Southern Bancorp initiative

Mayors and their representatives from throughout St. Francis County got a look at a computer accounting system Thursday that Southern Bancorp may help them get.

County Judge Gary Hughes introduced Steve Burton and others from Computer Systems of Arkansas. He said Southern Bancorp, through the Rockefeller Foundation, might help the cities get the new accounting systems, if they were interested.

“This is a project that has been identified as potentially a help for smaller cities, that is to provide maybe a better municipal accounting software program for them. Southern Bancorp is very interested in possibly funding this, so we’re not trying to sell you anything. They are trying to show you what they have to offer.”

When Burton took over, he said that accounting is a chore faced by every town, big or small.

“We’ve got, probably in Arkansas as far as municipalities, we have about 90 customers,” said Burton. “We range from towns as small as Winchester in the southeast corner of the state, which probably doesn’t have 200 people, up to Forrest City, Wynne, and there may be other towns in the region using it,” he said.

He added that even though Forrest City is currently using their system, there is an updated system, called CenterPoint, that will be available.

Burton said the system works for all towns with populations of 25,000 or fewer.

“Our specialty is municipal software,” said Burton. “The smaller a town gets, the more likely they are to use a product like Quickbooks or Peachtree or an accounting package like that. Those are very functional accounting packages, they are just not tailored and geared to what a city does. What we’re going to show you is something that is specifically tailored for cities and towns.”

Michael Boone Jr., a community development representative with Southern Financial Partners, also spoke briefly. He said he used to be city treasurer in Helena.

“We had two accounting systems and they were not communicating with each other,” he said, and added that the work done by Computer Systems of Arkansas was outstanding.

Burton said, “Any accounting package takes some time to learn. But after a couple of months, you will be getting very comfortable with this.”

Burton went through some of the features of the accounting and payroll software available. He said everything would be simplified.

He said in some systems, “One of the problems is…what you have to do is, you have to set up a set of books for this and a set of books for that. And If you want to work in the street fund you work there then you have to go out of that to get into your general fund, then you have to work through it and then you have to go back out of that, and you’re in and out and in and out. With this package, you can be doing a function like writing a check on the general fund, and then turn around and write a street fund check for your next check. You don’t have to switch in and out of your books. You just change the fund that you’re working with.”

Hughes said there would be a follow-up meeting for the mayors and clerks to decide if they are interested.