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Published: Tuesday, 8/28/2007

City accounting system upgrade may cost millions

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council received a briefing yesterday on a proposed $8 million to $10 million upgrade of the city's financial accounting system that, if purchased, will put even more burden on the city's strained capital improvements budget.

In the meeting, from which council's new "working majority" of A-team Democrats was noticeably absent, a consultant said the cost of the system could top $11 million over the first two years and up to $33 million over 12 years.

Council's information services committee heard an hour-long presentation from Charles Leadbetter, senior manager with Berry Dunn McNeil & Parker of Portland, Me.

Mr. Leadbetter was hired on a $123,400 consultant contract about six months ago to plan for taking bids on a new software system, known as an "enterprise resource planning" system. In a 48-page report, he surveyed four likely vendors for possible costs. The cost estimates ranged from a low of $1.3 million to a high of $11.2 million over a two-year period.

Mr. Leadbetter also spelled out his recommendations for how the city can get the most out of the project. Each also would require a 10 to 12-year commitment that could cost as much as $33.6 million.

His report said a high-tech information system would save money by speeding up government operations and providing better reporting and analysis of city spending.

"There really isn't a choice. The present hardware is put together with chewing gum and rubber bands," said committee Chairman Betty Shultz.

David Moebius, assistant chief operating officer for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, said the administration likely will recommend issuing bonds and then repaying the bonds over 10 years at a cost of $800,000 to $1 million a year out of the capital improvements budget.

Three Republicans and one B-team Democrat sat through the presentation.

Neither of the other two Democratic members, Frank Szollosi and Mike Craig, nor their alternates, Michael Ashford and Joe McNamara, were present. However, all four attended a Lucas County Democratic Party unity event that began about the time the council committee meeting was ending.

Mr. Craig attended the first part of the committee's two-hour meeting but left before the consultant's presentation.

Mr. Ashford, the new council president, was not familiar with the software accounting issue but waved off the absence of A-team Democrats who now constitute what he has called a "working majority" of council.

"You can say we missed a lot, but it will come back to us. We'll have an opportunity to hear the finalized plans," Mr. Ashford said.

Councilman Mark Sobczak, the B-team Democrat who heard the presentation, said, "They want to be leaders, they need to start showing up."

Some have suggested Mrs. Shultz's favorite subject - the need to rebuild Toledo's aging computer infrastructure - is something that the new leadership of council will not support because of its cost.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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