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Jefferson County seeks upgrade of financial software

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The Jefferson County Board of Legislators Finance and Rules Committee is set to vote on a resolution today that would authorize the spending of nearly $1 million to replace the county’s 15-year-old financial software, which officials called “antiquated.”

“The system we have now has been outdated for some time and we’ve known we’ve had to make this decision,” said Legislator Philip N. Reed, R-Fishers Landing, a member of the board’s information technology ad-hoc committee.

The committee, which also includes Legislators Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, and Robert D. Ferris, R-Watertown, selected “Munis,” a $962,497 suite of products from Dallas-based Tyler Technology, after soliciting staff input and reviewing several options over a two-year period.

The Munis software would replace the New World Systems financial management system that was installed in 1998.

“After 15 years of use, both the hardware and the financial management software is showing its age, and is frankly antiquated,” the ad-hoc committee wrote in its assessment of the old software. “The current software is DOS-based and lacks many of today’s standard features like drop down menus, integration with Microsoft Word and Excel, the ability to communicate via email within the system and share documents, web access, report design, and workflows rules.”

The county would also purchase a $29,750 state Civil Service auditing package from a separate vendor: Catalog and Commerce Solutions LLC, based in Pittsford, a Rochester suburb.

The county will also spend $250,000 for a new mainframe computer, using $500,000 in a capital account for that purchase and putting the remaining $250,000 toward the software purchases. The total cost for hardware and software will be $1.24 million, all of which is already appropriated, said Legislator Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, the Finance and Rules Committee’s chairman.

A $120,119 annual maintenance fee for the Munis software would begin a year after the initial purchase.

The upgrades will also ensure the system stays up to date with the newest, most innovative software, according to Mr. Ferris.

“This will give us the support we need for the future,” he said.

The maintenance fee may also help guard against a major flaw in the old system.

Because the New World software was relatively unsophisticated compared to systems available today, several in-house customized programs were designed to accommodate the county’s needs.

These customized programs made it difficult and expensive to execute vendor-offered upgrades, according to the ad-hoc committee’s executive summary.

Though the project may impart sticker shock on taxpayers accustomed to consumer software, legislators believe the cost is warranted given the upgrade’s scope.

“It’s a major purchase. It’s the backbone of our whole system,” Mr. Gray said. “This program is countywide. Every department will interact with this program. When you’re talking about an organization this big, software doesn’t come cheap.”

The software implementation is projected to take a year and a half to two years, according to Mr. Gray.

“Conversion itself is going to be extremely labor-intensive and that’s a component of the price,” Mr. Gray said.

Representatives from five other counties have recommended the Munis product suite, according to County Treasurer Karen M. Christie, who has been involved in the software selection.

Ms. Christie said she is looking forward to the new system’s improved accessibility and versatility as well as the ability to create customized reports.

Ms. Christie and Jefferson County Technology Director Gregory C. Hudson are scheduled to give a brief presentation about the proposal to the Finance and Rules Committee today, according to Mr. Gray.

If the committee recommends the purchase, the entire board must approve it before it takes effect.

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