April 17, 2014

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Lorain officials seek $1.2 million software upgrade

LORAIN — City department leaders are recommending a $1.2 million financial software upgrade.

“We’ve done more with less for as long as we possibly can,” Chief Deputy Auditor Anita Harper told members of the City Council’s Finance and Claims Committee on Monday. “It’s crucial to the operations of the city, basically, that we upgrade this stuff.”

About $1.1 million of the software would come from the Troy, Mich.-based New World Systems and used by departments throughout the city including the auditor’s office.

Nearly $111,000 would be spent on tax collection software for the Treasurer’s Department. The software would come from the Eaton Rapids, Mich.-based Innovative Software Services, which isn’t affiliated with New World.

Treasurer Karen Shawver said the software would lead to more tax revenue by allowing her staff to better track businesses that owe money.

“It’s going to hammer away at the people who don’t want to pay their taxes,” she said. “They’re going to hear from us immediately.”

Shawver said she and Mayor Chase Ritenauer had gotten Innovative to reduce its offer from $130,000. Shawver bristled when Councilman Dan Given, D-at large, said Shawver might have “misled” Council into believing she would be getting a bigger discount for Lorain.

“I take offense to your comments that I was lying to you, Dan,” she said, adding that she sent a memo to Council providing all financial quotes. “Everything was transparent when I submitted it to Council.”

Given conceded there may have been an unintentional misunderstanding. “We’ll have to agree to disagree on that and move forward,” he said.

Safety Service Director Robert Fowler said that in addition to improved tax collection, the software would allow residents to submit online building permit applications. Money would be saved on printing costs by producing online pay stubs and communication, and the treasurer’s department would be able to view Utility Department billing, a feature that currently doesn’t exist.

Building inspectors would also be able to enter more information in the field on laptops. “This software truly is a benefit to our organization,” Fowler said.

If approved by Council on Monday, Auditor Ron Mantini said the software would be installed in the auditor’s office and Treasurer’s Department by Dec. 1. About $718,000 of the cost would be paid through the general fund and about $482,000 from Utility Department fees.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.