Monday, June 07, 2010

Bloomberg's Version of the Gulf Oil Chrisis: Spill, Spill, Spill

As time keeps ticking, CityTime, New York's monstrous $700M money pit, still growing by the day

Friday, June 4th 2010, 4:00 AM

Even as he freezes pay for teachers and slashes budgets for most city agencies, Mayor Bloomberg plans to toss nearly another $100 million into the CityTime money pit next year.

That's the computerized timekeeping and payroll system that is seven years behind schedule and has already cost taxpayers more than $700 million - 10 times its original price tag.

The mayor has admitted CityTime is "a disaster," yet he refuses to turn off the spigot for the army of computer consultants that has fed off the project for at least a decade.

In March, the Daily News revealed that more than 230 private consultants billed an average of $400,000 each this year for their work on CityTime - with 11 of those consultants getting more than $600,000.

City officials finally moved to bring some of the work in-house for next year.

Beginning next month, the Office of Payroll Administration will hire 61 computer technicians at an average salary of $77,000 - and all will be assigned to CityTime.

But those new employees will cost only a tiny portion of the new spending allotted for CityTime.

An official at the Office of Payroll Administration confirmed yesterday that the agency will spend an additional $93 million next year on the project, including:

· About $5 million for the new employees.

· Just from its operating budget, Office of Payroll Administration will more than double spending for CityTime consultants, from $27 million this year to $57 million next year.

· And the agency will receive an additional $30 million from city capital funds to pay other consultants to install the system at additional city agencies.

So far, only about 53,000 of an estimated 145,000 city employees are even on the new payroll system, which includes controversial biometric hand scanners that are being required for a big share of the workforce.

The system has yet to be launched in the biggest city agencies, including the police and fire departments, and the Education Department.

"Costs going forward cover final implementation at the remaining agencies and the expected operating costs to run the system when it's online," said the Office of Payroll Administration official, who asked not to be identified.

The money earmarked for next year, the spokesperson said, "is $32 million less" than the current year.

But that misses the entire point.

When CityTime was introduced back in 1998, it was supposed to cost only $68 million.

It is now approaching $800 million, and may very well surpass $1 billion.

No wonder city Controller John Liu, who is now auditing CityTime, has called on Bloomberg to stop the project.

"In light of all the cuts to human and social services, this amount of money for a timekeeping system is unacceptable," said Brooklyn City Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Brooklyn).

James, co-chairwoman of the Council's Contracts Committee, has already held several hearings on the project's runaway costs.

She vowed to "call [city Budget Director] Mark Page to account about CityTime" when he appears at a Council Finance Committee meeting scheduled for Monday.

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