ANDERSON — When the Madison County Council eliminated five of the nine positions in the Information Technology Services Department this month, they relied on county population to justify their decision.
Madison’s population according to 2010 census figures is 131,642. Based on those numbers, the councilmen said, Madison’s IT department was overstaffed when compared to its peers.
But the information technology directors of two similarly sized counties — Hendricks, with 145,867 residents, and Johnson with 140,009 — said using population as the basis for determining staffing levels and budgets is virtually useless.
What matters, they said, are the number of users supported and the services provided.
Three full-time staff handle the technology needs of about 600 users in Johnson, said IT Director Robert Norris. And the department’s budget is $330,100.
That figure includes support for juvenile detention, the highway department, community detention, part of the sheriff department and county jail, and all the offices in Johnson’s county government building.
Support for in-car computers and communication equipment used by police and county fire departments is outsourced at a cost of $12,000 per month, or $144,000 per year, Norris said, bringing the county’s total IT budget to $474,100.
What’s not included in that figure, however, is that four different departments, including the sheriff and county courts, have employees dedicated to technology support functions, effectively bringing county IT staffing to seven.
In Hendricks County, a staff of five is responsible for supporting 600 users, said IT Systems Administrator Doug Morris, and the department’s budget is $1.1 million. The office supports all departments and users in the county government building, users in the county courthouse, the jail, parks and animal control departments.
County IT staff do not handle any emergency management functions as part of the county’s consolidated dispatch emergency management systems, Morris said.
Those functions and costs are handled through a new emergency dispatch center in Plainfield.
In addition, GIS mapping and a voice-over Internet telephone system is under the control of the county engineer’s office.
In contrast to these two counties, Madison’s IT department supports approximately 800 users, including all departments in the Madison County Government Center, courts and corrections, the health department and certain state offices
In addition, the department is responsible for consolidated emergency dispatch and is handling the installation of new police and EMS communication services throughout the county. The department’s budget this year is $810,000.
IT Director Jerry Branson said when the council decided to cut the department’s budget he had already developed a plan to reduce the department’s staff by three employees and reduce the budget to $621,000 next year. However, no member of the council ever contacted him about how he could reduce the department’s budget.
Various members of the county council have asserted that much of the work currently performed by the IT staff can be outsourced.
Possibly, Morris said, but not likely.
“We’ve had those discussions here in Hendricks, and I don’t believe you would save money,” he said. “I can’t imagine trying to outsource day-to-day operations.”
Qualified consultants charge anywhere from $125 to $150 per hour, he said.
And it would take an outside consultant working full-time weeks, if not longer, just to learn all of the nuances of the county’s network systems.
“I think it would be very costly,” he said.