A $14,000 potential increase in the amount of money budgeted for computer maintenance costs this year has sparked some concerns among District of Lantzville councillors.
During a committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday, a 73-per cent increase in the budget for computer maintenance was one of the items discussed as part of the upcoming 2016-20 budget and financial plan.
In the 2016 financial plan, which has not been adopted yet, staff recommends that council budget and approve $33,330 for computer maintenance services for the year – a $14,112 increase from the previous year.
Over the last few years, the district has consistently shelled out just under $20,000 a year for computer maintenance services. In 2015, Lantzville paid $19,218 for computer maintenance services.
Coun. John Coulson questioned the increase and voiced his concern with the recommendation by suggesting that $33,000 is almost enough to pay for an part-time IT employee, adding that the job does not require someone to be on site for that much time.
“There is no way that is a half-time job, for an organization of 12 people,” Coulson said.
Brad McRae, chief administrative officer for the district, told councillors that there have been problems with the district’s computers and that the increase was due to “IT matters” for both servicing equipment and hourly wage rates. McRae reminded the committee that a request for proposal is being created to assess new IT services for the district.
“The district software has been struggling more than it should and so because of that we have incurred more hours than we would on a regular basis,” McRae said. “There have been a couple of issues that staff have been grappling with for some time.”Coulson questioned why the district should consider increasing the budgeted amount if the work they’re getting done isn’t meeting their needs and expectations.”How can we use the dollar amount we are spending for substandard support to be our starting point for where we should be?” Coulson said. “We can’t. If we are not having an efficient, effective service, we wash the whole matter clean and start from scratch.”
Coun. Denise Haime, who agreed with Coulson, said that although she was aware of IT issues, she wasn’t confident with the sudden increase in price and felt it would be wise for the district to consider other options through a request for proposal.
“It is good to take it out there and get a fresh look at new service providers and get some quotes to see what the dollar brings,” Haime said. “It is an awful high number for a small organization. I can’t imagine what private industry would do. There is no way they could pay these kinds of rates. So something is not making sense to me. It is not adding up at all.”
Meanwhile, Coun. Dot Neary said she was hesitant to arbitrarily reduce the amount of money allocated for IT services without hearing more information about the services needed to be carried out.
“Every organization’s needs are very, very different and not having the expertise to be able to assess what our needs are versus what we got and what we are paying for and what we need to pay for, I am very reluctant to just arbitrarily reduce the respective budget number,” Neary said. “I appreciate and share the concern that there is this big leap and increase projected, but I find myself in a position where I am not able to say whether it is reasonable or unreasonable.”
Councillors eventually voted to address the issue at a future committee of the whole meeting.