August 31, 2010 in City

City agrees to pay $5 million for new software, training

By The Spokesman-Review

Though facing a $12 million shortfall next year, and the likelihood of layoffs, the Spokane City Council voted Monday to spend $5 million for a new software system and the expertise to get it running.

City officials said most of the money needed for the expense was saved over time specifically for technology upgrades and that diverting it to pay ongoing costs like salaries would delay – not prevent – eventual layoffs.

City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said layoffs should be avoided by city unions accepting the same kind of pay and benefit concessions that private-sector workers have had to endure – not by forgoing needed technology improvements.

“This is such an antiquated system,” she said. “One of the things we do very, very well – which I’m not happy about at all – is we many times defer maintenance issues.”

The software will serve the city’s human resources, retirement and payroll departments. About $1 million of the cost is for software and maintenance from California-based Oracle America Inc. About $4 million will be paid to Colorado-based CIBER Inc., which will bring a small staff to City Hall starting in October to implement the system correctly to the city’s needs, said Garv Brakel, Spokane’s director of management information services.

City Councilman Bob Apple, the lone vote against the software expense, said the purchase should have been delayed because of the economy. He said in a couple years there will be more opportunities to share costs of human resources software systems with other governments.

“I cannot justify this expense when we’re looking to lay off a large number of people,” Apple said.

The new software is scheduled to be operational on Jan. 1, 2012, Brakel said. It is replacing a system the city has used since the late 1980s, he said.

City Councilman Jon Snyder said a company he used to work for ditched in 1999 the same payroll and human resources software the city is about to replace.

“It was old then,” Snyder said. “It was unstable then.”

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