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May 1, 2005

$6 Million Software Can’t Produce MMSD Budget

Roger Price, MMSD Assistant Superintendent, watched intently as people drifted into the room for the hearing on the school budget at the Warner Park Community Center.

When he spotted school board members, Price quickly handed them a memo that read in part:

Our goal was to provide the total budget and district profile on April 29. We are very close to completing the written parts of that document. The fiscal and staffing sections that will be imported as part of the total report are not completed. This is not due to a lack of effort, but rather to the vast amount of inputs and the complexity of the work that occurs when implementing a new software system and putting in place a system that will sustain us into the future. . . . This work was completed in time to prepare the necessary reports had all of the internal technical working of the new system performed the first time. As you may know if you have been involved in implementing new systems, that is almost never the case. We have experienced some delays in the actual processing and marrying of the numerous data elements. (Complete PDF memo)

In other words, the new $6 million software package doesn’t work, even though implementation probably began in late 2003 or early 2004. (Motions in board minutes)

The MMSD administration cannot produce a budget document. By contrast the Milwaukee Public Schools, surely a larger and more complex district, has extensive and detailed budget documents on its Web site.

Apparently the MMSD shut down the Lawson Software system to all uses other than budgeting on Thursday (April 27) for an unspecified number of days; presumably giving the administration sole use will allow staff to generate a “complete budget profile within a week and a half.” See more in a story from the Wisconsin State Journal.

Unsubstantiated rumors say that the MMSD has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay to make the software system work.

Coupled with $275,000 spent on new time clocks, the total cost of the software project probably equals or surpasses the amount the board and administration want to raise in the operating referendum.

Is the referendum doing nothing more than paying for software, time clocks, and overtime while academic programs get chopped?

Ironically, we can’t know until the administration produces a budget that accurately compares this and previous years' spending with a budget for next year.

Posted by Ed Blume at May 1, 2005 9:08 AM
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