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Lamont proposes needed reboot for state’s IT operations

Governor Lamont has proposed an overdue reorganization of the state’s information technology (IT) employees, which are now scattered across more than 40 agencies. 

The move, announced last week, will “centralize the coordination of the state’s IT resources” under the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). 

Connecticut, as of earlier this month, employed about 770 people in IT-related titles but only 117 worked directly for DAS. Legislative audits, meanwhile, have highlighted “inefficiencies” and other shortfalls in the IT operations of individual state agencies. 

As the Hartford Business Journal noted, the centralization will reduce or eliminate the need to replace employees expected to retire before generous pension rules change in mid-2022. 

State IT positions pay salaries averaging $104,637 per year. Factoring in fringe benefits, each position cost taxpayers an average of more than $190,000 annually. This means that across the executive branch, salaries and benefits for IT positions add up to roughly $80.6 million each year.

New York state government in 2012 undertook a similar effort, pulling about 3,300 IT employees from 37 agencies into a single department. By early 2020, that agency was operating with about one-third fewer managers, and its total headcount had dropped about 9 percent.

Consolidation makes sense both in terms of the cost and the overall improvement in services that’s possible from increased specialization and improved training. 

State agencies have been slow to modernize their IT operations in part because of how they’re financed.

Connecticut, the Lamont administration has noted, is one of the few states that funds IT positions directly instead of using a “chargeback” approach that forces each agency to look at IT as an operating cost coming out of its own budget. 

Connecticut’s public-sector unions have historically been cool to efficiency plans—since a more efficient workforce means fewer people paying union dues. The Lamont administration is currently negotiating with its labor unions for up-coming contract renewals, and union opposition could hinder potential efficiency savings through IT consolidation.

Last year, the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) urged state workers to ignore an administration survey designed to help officials plan and make state government more efficient.

But with Connecticut facing an expected retirement surge of state employees before fiscal year 2022 and labor costs rising due to Connecticut’s unfunded retirement liabilities that drive up fringe benefit rates, the state may need to utilize technology, consolidate resources and do more with less.  

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