EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 27, 2012

Zanni hikes projected IT savings to $925K

By Brian Messenger

---- — METHUEN — The mayor is now projecting close to $1 million in savings under his latest IT privatization plan, nearly doubling his prior estimate in a move that has drawn skepticism from some city councilors.

When Mayor Stephen Zanni recently withdrew his proposed “reorganization” plan for the four-employee municipal Information Technology department, he did so with the intention of resubmitting a nearly-identical proposal to the City Council.

“Basically, it’s the same plan,” Zanni told The Eagle-Tribune.

But the new plan councilors received last week has at least one significant change: Zanni is now projecting $925,224 in savings over the next five years. That’s up from the $485,000 over 41/2 years he was originally predicting.

“I don’t know how it can be over $900,000 when the plan we had before was a lot less,” said Councilor Jamie Atkinson, who is against the mayor’s push to replace the IT department with a private firm. “It seems like fuzzy math.”

Zanni said his initial plan contained a “conservative estimate.”

He said further savings have now come into focus after Corporate IT Solutions performed a detailed analysis. The Norwood-based firm was selected in the fall to replace the existing IT department by Zanni and a three-member council subcommittee.

“I would call this a real, in-depth explanation,” said Zanni of his latest projection. “This is an in-depth analysis over the next five years.”

The City Council will hear more about IT privatization from Zanni and representatives of Corporate IT Solutions at a public hearing Jan. 3. The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. A deciding council vote on Zanni’s IT plan is then expected Jan. 7.

Zanni’s plan would pay Corporate IT Solutions $204,036 per year to manage the city’s IT needs. Privatization would not take effect until July 1. The mayor’s previous plan called for a February start date.

Savings in next year’s budget are limited to just $35,252, due to initial expenses including vacation and sick leave buyback ($167,531), health insurance and unemployment costs. But savings in each of the following four years projected at between $210,000 and $235,000. Zanni said every $100,000 out of the city’s operating budget saves the average property taxpayer in Methuen $6.