Supes OK $5.6M new financial system

By From page A1 | March 29, 2013

A “Who’s Who” of El Dorado County elected leaders joined forces Tuesday morning to urge the board of supervisors to approve a $5.6 million overhaul of the county’s long-outdated Information Technology system. Sheriff John D’Agostini, District Attorney/IT Director Vern Pierson, Recorder-Clerk Bill Schultz, Surveyor Rich Briner and Assessor Karl Weiland had signed a two-page letter to the board recommending approval of the IT system. D’Agostini, reading the letter for the public record, cited chapter and verse detailing the inadequacy and inefficiency of the “current financial system which has approached end of life.”

After an 18-month review and evaluation of alternatives, the administration’s Information Technology Investment Team, IT Steering Committee, Chief Administrative Officer, Auditor-Controller and Chief Technology Officer recommended  purchase and implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Following the county’s Request for Proposal policy, the IT team chose Tyler Technologies of Yarmouth, Maine, as its preferred vendor. And followed by a loud round of applause, the board voted unanimously to go with the recommended provider at the price suggested.

The initial ERP contract is $2.6 million for purchase, implementation and maintenance. Another $3 million is budgeted for staffing, hardware and software.

Funding for the project, in a sense, is “old money,” as it will come out of an existing $18.5 million Reserve for Capital Projects. That fund was established by the board to meet one-time capital project needs connected to its multi-year, multi-pronged strategic “Investments” program. Upgrading the county’s IT systems was considered the first and the top priority among a host of other priorities.

For the past 20 years, the county has relied on a financial system known as FAMIS. That system “is written in old technology that is costly to maintain” and is unable to integrate financial, human resources, payroll, budgeting and contracting functions, according to board documents.

The original provider has seen a steep decline in the number of entities using such a system, and there has been concern for some time that the vendor would not be able to provide support services for much longer. Department heads and staff have complained about the “tape and bailing wire” fixes that have kept the system limping along for years.

Chief Administrative Officer Terri Daly opened the meeting by pointing to a large paper diagram pinned to one wall of the supervisors chambers. A combination organizational chart and procedural description, the example showed up to 20 or more steps involved in “paying an invoice.” Those steps are expected to be reduced to less than a handful with the new system. Currently most departments have separate units of financial and accounting specialists, about 275 total, according to Auditor-Controller Joe Harn, who also soundly endorsed the recommended contract with Tyler Technologies.

Harn remarked that “we have too many accounting and administrative people in the county, especially the Department of Transportation and the new Community Development Agency. Whether we do the ERP or not, if we do it right, we will save a bunch of money.”

Later in the meeting, Daly assured the board that the new system would not result in layoffs in coming years but that the financial and administrative staff rolls would be reduced by attrition and retirements. Just a 10 percent reduction would lead to more than $2 million in savings per year, she said. Documents prepared for the board note that the current cost of administrative/fiscal staffing is $27 million a year, and the cost of operating the FAMIS system runs more than $1.6 million annually.

“Assuming we are able to realize these savings, it is possible the county will have recovered the costs of implementing the ERP within three-four years of full implementation,” Daly wrote.

Assessor Weiland, speaking in favor of the project, described the importance of good information and good communication to county leaders “in their larger role as decision-makers.” Those decision-makers are “critically dependent on good information being communicated effectively,” he said.

El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laurel Brent-Bumb spoke in support of the proposal while jokingly handing CAO Daly a roll of duct tape symbolizing the current IT systems.

Michael Ranalli, a member of the County Economic Development Advisory Committee, also spoke in favor of the proposed project as did former county supervisor Jack Sweeney. Sweeney described himself as the “Doubting Thomas” when a number of years ago  the old system became more and more troublesome. His reason for skepticism then was based on the fact that “others had tried and failed,” he recalled.

The last “elected” to testify in favor was Bill Schultz who serves the county as Recorder-Clerk, Registrar of Voters and Director of Veterans Affairs. He described a simple, three-option recommendation to supervisors:

“Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

With the approval to move forward, Daly assured the board that the project team would provide quarterly updates on the status of the project. Assistant director of the IT department, David Russell, was appointed county ERP project manager with a stipend of 15 percent of his salary while he serves in that capacity.

Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected]. Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.

Chris Daley

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