Districts to pay millions for new county-wide education finance software

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

A new Enterprise Resource Planning software system that the San Diego County Office of Education is proposing to install could cost as much as $63 million, half of which SDCOE is asking school districts to fund.

Although local districts all say the ERP system is long overdue, the steep price tag comes at a difficult time for cash-strapped schools. Even in the best of times, paying the estimated cost of $85 per pupil is a whopper.

SDCOE currently provides various software systems to 56 school districts, community colleges and charter schools in the county. These systems include payroll, personnel, budgeting, financial and business operations, including purchasing and inventory.

But some of these systems are over 30 years old, not integrated, written in old programming languages and costly to maintain, according to school board reports.

Lora Duzyk, assistant superintendent of business services for SDCOE, called the current system “very antiquated” and inefficient.

SDCOE is currently in contract negotiations to provide a new integrated software system to allow for more efficient and effective use of financial and employee data. The new ERP system – PeopleSoft from Oracle – will “transform the way we do business,” Duzyk said.

She would not state specifically how much the new system will cost, saying the county is still in closed negotiations with the provider and the final cost is based upon the number of districts agreeing to participate.

But she did say the county will pay at least 50 percent of the total cost, and the rest will be divided among the participating school districts, based upon enrollment numbers. The more districts, the lower the cost per district.

Duzyk said SDCOE is asking all 42 county school districts, except San Diego Unified School District which has its own internal systems, to make a commitment in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding to agree to participate in the cost of the ERP system.

The deadline to notify SDCOE is Jan. 31, and as of Jan. 28 she said she has MOUs from 20 of the 41 districts (excluding SD Unified).

“We expect them all,” she said in an email. “The rest are in process, going to [the] board, getting signatures or in the mail.”

The amount school districts are being asked to approve is $85 per ADA (Average Daily Attendance), which is a maximum estimate.

“We need to know who’s with us in order to sign the contract,” said Duzyk, who hopes to begin the initial design and configuration Feb. 1.

The county educates about 500,000 K-12 students, and SD Unified has about 130,000 of those. If the 41 school districts in San Diego County that serve the remaining 370,000 students all agree to participate, at $85 per pupil, the total cost for the ERP system for school districts comes to about $31.5 million.

With SDCOE kicking in half, that brings the total estimated price to about $63 million. This would be a maximum cost.

Many school boards this month have included this MOU on their agendas. Local school districts – including San Dieguito, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe – have all reviewed and approved these MOUs.

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