Pittsburgh Council Approves More Money for New Financial System

Mar 6, 2013

Pittsburgh Council Members listen as Ravenstahl administration officials brief them on the city's switch to a new electronic financial system.
Credit Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh has spent roughly $4 million since 2010 to merge its financial management system with Allegheny County's, and City Council on Wednesday approved $150,000 additional dollars for its new electronic database. Final approval is expected next Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Innovation Performance Manager Chuck Half said when it's implemented, the "JD Edwards" financial system from the software company Oracle, will save Pittsburgh money every time the city cuts a check to a city employee, a vendor, or a pensioner.

Half said he expects that the city's 3,300 payroll checks, issued every two weeks, will start rolling off the JD Edwards system in April or May.

"That'll provide an approximately $500,000 savings to the city on an annual basis going forward," said Half. That's roughly 71% off of the current payroll cost of $700,000.

Half said other payments made by the city, including monthly pension payouts and checks to vendors, would also be transitioning to the new financial system in the coming months, saving more money. Municipal and firefighter pensions will be paid for from the new system at the end of March, according to Half, while police pensions will be switched over in early April. The city currently has about 4,400 pensioners.

However, the JD Edwards system does come at a high annual cost to for the city: Pittsburgh must pay Allegheny County about $550,000 yearly to use its system, and also chip in roughly half a million dollars in licensing and maintenance costs each year.

Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd said the process of switching financial systems, though necessary, has been grueling and expensive. He said the $4 million — and rising — cost of implementation has come with little explanation as to when the system would arrive.

"We need some level of comfort before we just start casting further money towards a system, when I can't get a clear answer [as to] 'Where are we? What do we need? How does it get done?'" said Dowd.

Dowd, however, was the only Councilman that did not vote to approve the additional $150,000 payment to implement the new JD Edwards financial system. Council also passed bills to provide money for audits of the city's tax collections and the Department of Finance. All of the legislation is up for a final vote next Tuesday.

The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) pushed for years for the City of Pittsburgh to upgrade its information technology systems, so it could better cooperate with the county.