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Answering call to save $$
Manteca council move cuts phone costs by $1M over 10 years
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Manteca city leaders are leaving no stone unturned – or call unanswered – in a bid to reduce the cost of government.

The City Council embraced a staff recommendation to switch from Verizon land-based phone service using a Centrex system to Shoretel’s voice over internet protocol telephone system.

It is a move that will save money and improve customer service.

Currently, the city is spending $195,405 annually for the 18-year-old system that requires a two week to three month delay to get a phone technician out to add a phone line. The new system allows it to be done in-house and offers a slew of features such as being able to add voicemail and other features without monthly charges.

The city has arranged for a lease-purchase of the new system through Municipal Services Group Inc. to avoid having to tap into the stressed general fund to purchase the system and related equipment plus labor and covering the cost of the five-year warranty. The city will be able to save $50,407 per year compared to the cost of the existing Centrex system and its charges. The savings during the five-year lease will come to $460,462. At the end of the lease, the savings will be $118,366 per year.

That translates into $1,052,292 in savings over a decade. If the new system lasts as long as the current phone system, the city will have saved $1,999,220 over the course of 18 years.

A memo from Finance Director Suzanne Mallory and information technology manager Tim Dyke indicated “the new system will improve efficiency and productivity of city staff in a number of ways.”

One feature is unified messaging that delivers voicemail to the user’s e-mail box as well as telephone to allow faster message response.

Call center functionality will be used in departments handling utility calls to allow lower times in to answer and to improve customer service. The system will provide queuing during peak call volume times to direct overflow to others in the office when the wait time becomes excessive. At the same time, it will generate a report on worker performance as well as service level attainment in call answering.

A fax server also is including allowing faxes to be sent to and from e-mail accounts and to improve confidentiality.

The city’s information technology team will be able to do almost all work related to the new phone system once it is installed.

The move is aimed to accomplish the goal the city hopes to realize in its current examining of how it is doing business – saving money to reduce the projected deficit in the upcoming fiscal year and improve worker efficiencies in the face of the need to do more with less as personnel costs are 85 percent of the budget.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton has indicated strategies such as the phone system switch, furloughs, not filling positions and other options being explored should bridge at least half of the $11.3 million deficit.