Software to automate city government behind schedule; costs are rising

rshinohara@adn.comApril 12, 2013 

— A new software system meant to automate many functions of Anchorage's city government is more than a year behind the first scheduled start date and has risen in price by about $4.5 million since the initial 2011 budget for it, the city's chief financial officer, Lucinda Mahoney, said Friday.

The municipality is now planning to go live with the new SAP system Oct. 1. Once it comes online, it will handle accounting, purchasing, budgeting, benefits administration and many other jobs. And it is expected to make the city work more efficiently.

Mahoney gave an update on that project and another one, Kronos, an automated timecard system that is already in use in municipal government, to the Anchorage Assembly in a work session at City Hall on Friday.

Mahoney said the complexity of programming the city labor contracts has added to the time and money being spent on the SAP software. Additionally, "Resources are constrained," she said.

The administration is asking the Assembly to put another $1.9 million into the SAP budget for this year. The city has a $6 million surplus of unspent money from 2012, and the added money for SAP would come out of that surplus.

SAP is the name of the German company that produces the business management software.

Cost estimates started out at $10.6 million and have risen to $15.1 million, Mahoney said. That doesn't include the cost of the time city employees have devoted to get it up and running, she said.

The city decided to install the SAP system to replace an aging PeopleSoft software system that could not be upgraded, Mahoney said.

Karen Norsworthy, a manager in the city Employee Relations Department, gave an example of how the SAP software will improve the system.

Information that now has to be manually changed in an employee's status -- a probationary period, time for an annual raise, a long leave that changes an employee's anniversary date -- will all be programmed to adjust automatically, she said.

Kronos, the automated payroll timekeeping system the city installed in 2012, has already resulted in some savings, Mahoney said.

It cost $1.2 million. So far, the city has eliminated three positions as a result of Kronos, at a savings of about $329,000, Mahoney said.

But Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson said she's hearing complaints from city workers about Kronos. "I'm hearing all over the municipality, people are really not happy."

Tim Steele, who was just elected to the Assembly, said when he was campaigning door-to-door in West Anchorage, he also heard some employee complaints about Kronos.

People with mobile jobs can't check in to work on Kronos from the field, Steele said.

Mahoney said a mobile application is under development.

The Assembly will decide on any budget changes for 2013, including the $1.9 million request in additional money for the SAP system, at its April 23 meeting.

Mayor Dan Sullivan proposes to spend a total of $4 million of the $6 million budget surplus from 2012. Besides the software, the mayor proposes adding $800,000 to the 2013 budget to plan for the city's 2015 centennial celebration, and $400,000 to plan for improvements in the Ship Creek area.

Two million dollars would be used to reduce property taxes, keeping tax rates at about the same level as this year.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.

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