Muskoka - Information technology services at the district costs taxpayers about $1.5 million per year.
In a service review at corporate and emergency services committee on Friday, staff said that costs have been stable over the past three years, but decreases are expected in 2013 as upgrades to the system have been completed. The current costs reflect one per cent of overall expenses, when the provincial average for information technology is 1.4 per cent, according to the report presented by staff.
Since 2007 the expense has more than doubled.
There have been extensive improvements and updates to both hardware and software in that time.
For example, in 2007 district Internet connections we unsecured, there no firewalls and there were limited servers and licences.
Applications have been streamlined, reducing the number from 1,200 to 600, and 75 obsolete servers were replaced. Since the last major virus on the system 18 months ago, the department has minimized risk and managed spyware.
Staff said they are continuing to look for cost savings and efficiencies.
In July of this year staff will move into a finished data centre with proper cooling and fire systems.
The relationship between Huntsville, Lake of Bays and the district has been dysfunctional when it comes to information technology.
The information technology service review at Friday’s corporate and emergency services committee meeting was awkward at points since both Huntsville and Lake of Bays have withdrawn from district information technology services in recent years at significant cost savings.
“We’re saving money,” said Lake of Bays Mayor Bob Young.
Young said things were tense when the township separated from the district last year.
“It’s hard to have a divorce and come back kissy, kissy again,” he said. “But we are now superbly pleased with the performance and control of our system.”
Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty said the quote for services the town received from district was $413,000 and by using independent services they brought the cost in at $311,000 for 2012, which includes everything the town needs including BlackBerrys, help desk and all website management.
But the town and the township still pay their share of district information technology costs and they are not part of the committee that provides oversight to the department.
Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Muskoka Lakes continue to use district services and are the only towns that sit on that committee.
“There’s something fundamentally wrong here,” said Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy. “They’re getting no input into district costs … there’s really just three municipalities … this is crazy.”
Doughty said that everyone at the table wants to be part of the most cost-effective system possible.
“There is only one wallet here,” he said. “We’re all striving to look at the best service for the dollar.”
He said Huntsville was fortunate that CAO Kelly Pender had reorganized an information technology department just before his move to the town. “It’s worked amazingly well for us.”
He said it would benefit everyone to sit down and leave their egos at the door to find the best system for the taxpayer’s dollar.
“At the end of the day we want to drive value and we’re forceful about that.”