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$3,000 May Save Pottsgrove $200,000 Or More

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – If a $3,000 experiment can save the Pottsgrove School District roughly 67 times that much in additional costs – and there’s no promise it will, but “more than a glimmer of hope” that it could, according to Business Administrator David Nester – then the Board of School Directors said Tuesday (Sept. 26, 2017) it’s willing to try it.

The experiment involves hiring a consultant, an expert and “development partner” in Microsoft-branded database software, to examine the district’s program licensing agreement. It needs to determine if a different but certified outside contractor can be licensed to continue modifying the highly customized financial accounting package on which Pottsgrove has relied for more than 10 years.

If the answer’s “yes,” and Nester thinks it will be, he and the school board will likely be overjoyed. Finding a new software package, and then customizing it, can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The program the district uses now, provided by its current developer, Jitasa, was purchased for about $175,000 a decade ago.

“I expect the cost (of replacement software) will be a significant concern,” Nester said. Training expenses and other items would only add to the expense. Pottsgrove also currently pays a $15,000 annual maintenance fee, and in past months it spent about $48,000 in upgrades.

Jitasa is the latest name for an Idaho-headquartered firm Nester reported has been acquired several times by others. It recently announced it would exit the software development business, making its financial software licensed by the district unavailable after June 30, 2019.

Although that’s just slightly less than two years away, he noted, “a transition in this type of system will take six months to a year.” There’s no time to waste, Nester indicated, but his preference would be to “continue with out current software if at all possible.”

One reason: Assistant Business Administrator Ron Linke can make it jump though hoops, because he’s “developed an in-depth knowledge” of the product. As a result, Pottsgrove has “implemented many of the improvements” available in the software to date. The district also has come to be considered by others as a go-to resource “when they have issues,” he noted.

The consultant’s $3,000 maximum fee is based on a rate of $145 hourly at about 15 hours worth of work. The state of Pennsylvania does not offer, nor does it recommend, a similar financial bundle, Nester said.

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Sept. 26 meeting):

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