When Colorado Springs employees call the city's help desk next year they won't talk to a city technology specialist.
They'll be connected to someone in an outside company.
It's part of the city's plan to cut 20 positions from the Information Technology department in 2014 and outsource work in the city's data center, data administration and help desk.
IT employees were notified Wednesday. They will be offered severance packages, said Joe Palmer, chief information officer. One city IT employee in the Wednesday meeting said employees felt betrayed and many were nervous about searching for new jobs.
The IT department expects to hire contractors by January, Palmer said.
Local companies will be given first preference and he hopes that the outside companies will hire some of city's IT employees, he said.
"Part of our strategy is to leverage the market where it has the ability to provide services better, at a higher quality, faster or less expensively or more securely," Palmer said.
The move, which pares down the IT department from 61 to 41 employees, was motivated by an aging city data center, Palmer said. The city spent $11.6 million on the downtown data center in 2008. But the technology isoutdated, he said, and it would cost $10 million to upgrade.
The IT outsourcing plan will be included in the 2014 city budget, which is expected to be $243 million. It will be released Oct. 7 by Mayor Steve Bach. City Council will have four days of budget hearings, Oct. 10, 11, 14 and 15 in City Hall.
It is unclear if IT is the only department that will be affected by outsourcing in 2014. The city's chief of staff Laura Neumann could not be reached Thursday.
Outsourcing data centers is a trend in city governments and private businesses that are putting data into cloud and web storage instead of keeping the data in their own racks of computers, Palmer said.
The IT department had a $10 million budget in 2013. Palmer did not know how much the city expects to save in salary and benefits with the outsourcing, but said his expectation is to shave 50 percent of the cost to run the city's data center.
The savings will be put back into the IT department to develop better customer applications, the city's web site and develop better communication tools for police and firefighters, Palmer said. Paramedics, for example, want to send data they collect on the scene to hospitals as they are en route. Developing such a program is in the three-year IT strategic plan, Palmer said.
"I don't think the average citizens care if we operate the data center. They do care if we are delivering service," he said.
Outsourcing city jobs is a concept endorsed by a local group of business men and women, The City Committee, which formed in 2010 to advise the mayor on finance issues.
One of the city's biggest liabilities, committee members have said, is the city's contributions to the Public Employee Retirement Association. Last year, the city's payments were about $26 million. When the city out sources jobs it decreases that long-term liability, committee members have said.
Last year, the city eliminated 32 positions, including positions in the streets, planning and finance departments. In June, the city announced that it was outsourcing its fleet management department and cut 70 city jobs. The city has hired Serco Group, a U.K-based company with a U.S. headquarters in Virginia, to maintain the city's 4,500 vehicles and pieces of equipment, including police squad cars and Colorado Springs Utilities vehicles. The city estimates it could save $2 million over three years. Serco is expected to take over fleet management Jan. 1, 2014.
The IT department was down 9 employees this year over last year because vacant positions were not filled. The result was long waits by city employees who called the help desk, Palmer said. He said city employees will be better served by an outside help desk.
"The goal was to make sure we are delivering technology to users and departments so they can be effective in their jobs," Palmer said.