Council Votes Down $4M ERP System for St. Joseph County, Ind.

In a 5-4 vote, county officials decided against a new enterprise resource planning system, citing concerns about cost, despite support from several department heads.

by Ted Booker, South Bend Tribune / January 10, 2019

(TNS) — The St. Joseph County Council voted 5-4 on Tuesday to shut down a proposal for a $4.2 million financial computer system, disappointing several department heads who voiced support for it.

Council members who voted against the proposal expressed concerns about the cost of the enterprise resource planning system from Georgia-based Infor Public Sector, along with potential problems that could come with trying to implement it. Some suggested the county might be better off using money to beef up the county’s nine-employee IT department and revisit buying a system later on.

Those who voted for the proposal called attention to how department heads said the current financial system from South Bend-based Low Associates is difficult to use and inefficient, saying that Infor’s system would be better suited for a wide range of tasks related to accounting, payroll tracking, preparing budgets and human resources.

Supporters also called attention to how the system would be affordable. The plan called for borrowing money under seven-year lease financing agreement with U.S. Bank. A variety of funds would have been used to cover the cost, and projections from the auditor’s office suggested the funds would have maintained healthy balances over the pay-off period.

Those who voted against budgeting money for the system were Robert Kruszynksi Jr., Diana Hess, Mark Catanzarite, Mark Telloyan and Joe Canarecci, who replaced Robert McCahill this year to represent District H.

Those who supported the system were Corey Noland, Richard Pfeil, Rafael Morton and Mark Root.

Before the vote, Andy Kostielney, who is president of the county Board of Commissioners, urged the council to support the new system.

Kostileney asked county employees who support the new system to stand up during the meeting at the County-City Building, and the numerous did so.

He said that while the proposed system would cost “a lot of money,” much of it would go toward on-site training provided by the company so that the system could be implemented smoothly.

“We don’t have the people and staff to enact this, and that’s why it’s more expensive because we would be paying for a full implementation,” he said, adding that the installation of the dispatch system at the 911 center didn’t go well because there wasn’t enough assistance from the software company.

But for his part, Catanzarite said he doesn’t think spending more than $4 million on a new system would be wise. He said the county might be better off investing money in its IT department, which he said is “woefully understaffed and underpaid.” He contended that the staffing situation at the IT department could make it a challenge to implement a new system.

The county should “work toward getting an ERP system in the future,” he said. “I would hate to see the system fall on its face and not be implemented properly.”

But Noland, in response, told Catanzarite that Infor’s system was chosen because the county doesn’t have enough staffing to implement the system on its own.

Infor’s plan called for providing more on-site training than other companies that submitted proposals. Noland also pointed out that the company received a better rating from a committee of department heads than the other 13 that submitted proposals last year.

The system “needs to be seen as an investment — not a cost,” Noland said.

Canarecci, the new council member who previously served on the Mishawaka Common Council, said he is concerned that projections about the county’s financial standing in the coming years might be too optimistic.

“I take pause at some of the projections made — not because they’re wrong, but they might be optimistic,” he said, expressing concerns about how property tax caps could affect the county’s budget. “While in the future (the system) seems very easy to afford, maybe the question shouldn’t be can we afford it, but should we afford it now because we don’t know the questions to ask for what tomorrow might look like.”

County Auditor Mike Hamann, in response, told Canarecci that he wished the council member would have visited his office to review information about fund projections before deciding on the matter.

“I’m disappointed that you didn’t do that when we sent an email to you Friday and got no response,” Hamann said. “Had you taken the time to meet with us, you could have moved to a different conclusion. But you didn’t, and here we are.”

©2019 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.