Technology Services Director
Self-service reporting, better decision making
Town of Cary is an efficient, effective municipality with help from SAS®
When revenue projections for the Town of Cary dipped a few years ago, officials in North Carolina’s seventh-largest municipality had to make some quick decisions on what to cut from its $350 million capital budget.
But first, they needed to know in detail what types of unspent funds remained in active capital projects.
“We were able to find enough flexibility in the capital projects to avoid issuing more debt,” says Town Manager Ben Shivar. The town eliminated $3.5 million of unissued debt, and $6.9 million of unissued debt was replaced with cash. “The Budget Office now routinely utilizes SAS reporting to rank the sources of unspent funds within active capital projects. This information helps staff ensure that the town's dollars are being applied as effectively as possible."
We have better information and more accurate information.
With SAS reporting and analytics, town employees spend more time managing departmental budgets and less time creating reports.
In addition to dollar savings and efficiency gains, town staff can give local residents answers to their questions more quickly and accurately. And now that they can access the data themselves via portal, town employees rely less on IT.
“It is always more efficient to have the data analyzed by someone who understands it,’’ explains Bill Stice, Technology Services Director. “And now, the information is better and more accurate. We no longer rely on contradictory bits of data scattered in various spreadsheets.”
Improve public safety
With data readily available and easier to analyze, Cary police officers are more aware of situations before they arrive on the scene. SAS gives them quick access to information about the address so that they can better anticipate what to expect upon arrival, and it helps them anticipate what other resources they might need to on the call.
SAS gives police officers a deeper understanding of crime patterns. And now it’s easier to share critical information with the public, property managers and business owners.
For example, the police department can now create a daily report that summarizes crime and incident data for each of the 41 participating multi-family communities. This helps property managers find out what’s happening on their grounds. And it alerts them to possible lease violations that could lead to eviction.
"In the past, researching reports and calls for service was very time consuming,” says police lieutenant Ken Quinlan. “Now it takes less than a minute. And we’ve seen a fairly significant reduction in crime and calls for service within those apartment communities.’’
Perhaps the biggest benefit is that police officers aren’t dependent on the department’s two analysts. Using a portal, they are now able run their own statistical reports. “We’re a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation, but we’re not here all the time,’’ says Elise Pierce, one of the department’s analysts. And since analysts are freed from routine data requests, they can spend more time looking for relationships between crimes, identifying crime intensity areas that need more intense policing, calculating the department’s clearance rate (crimes solved), and running officer efficiency reports for supervisors. “In the end it goes back to keeping officers safe and preventing people from being victims,’’ Pierce says.
Helping managers analyze their budgets – and save money
With SAS, department heads can better manage projects that receive funding from multiple sources.
Department heads used to have a hard time keeping tabs on different subsections of their budget. “If I needed to know how much money was left in my contracted services budget, I had to wade through hundreds of records in the general ledger,’’ Stice says.
So like many department heads, he kept his own spreadsheet. A finance department employee wrote a program that lets department heads see what’s available in real time. “It saves me a lot of time,’’ Stice says.
Here are a few more ways Cary uses SAS to save money and improve service:
- The monthly construction activity report, which once took five to seven days to complete, now takes two days. The inspections and permits department can analyze data to determine if it is meeting goals for sending the same inspector to a site and completing visits quickly.
- The finance department offers a portal that lets water customers check their water usage and determine if they have a leak. The town’s advanced meter infrastructure system pulls in hourly meter data over 13 months to generate 600 million rows of data – too much for a spreadsheet to handle. With SAS, the data is formatted automatically so consumers can look at their hourly, daily and monthly consumption for the past 13 months.
- The parks, recreation and cultural resources department has several automated reports that track part-time employee hours and program participation information, including participant enrollment, gender and age, as well as participation by course, facility, program, date, division and waitlist information. Previously each program’s staff had to run several reports and copy the data to another "main" Excel spreadsheet. The process was time-consuming and cumbersome. Now one person can complete the reports with just a few clicks.
- Fuel consumption estimates (important for budget estimates) are calculated in SAS to help the town save money and manage budgets.
“We’re able to get more data in front of decision makers,’’ explains Janelle Bailey, one of the Town’s business analysts. “It helps them make decisions faster.’’
The Town of Cary needed a faster, easier way to use data for everyday decision making.
With self-service reporting, the police are helping to reduce crime, department heads have a better understanding of their budgets, and the permitting department is tracking efforts to meet customer service goals and better meet the needs of citizens while ensuring effective use of taxpayer dollars.