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Niagara County Budget Director Sharon Sacco defended the county's new financial computer software system Monday against its critics.

During a session of the County Legislature's Finance Committee, Sacco told the legislators, "It's our puppy. We bought it, and we're not going backwards."

Sacco said the county has spent $1.4 million buying and implementing the PeopleSoft system for its payroll, purchasing, bill-paying and ledger-keeping abilities.

However, some departments have complained that the new system, rather than saving them time and effort, has made their jobs longer and harder.

Minority Leader Robert L. Seger, D-North Tonawanda, asked, "Are we moving too fast on this? I know there's a lot of people having trouble grasping this. . . . I'm not talking about one or two people. I've heard (it's) countywide."

Chief Accountant Paul J. Roman replied, "We're not moving too fast, because in order to have the system we had to have everything." He said employee complaints are "a matter of not picking up all the little nuances that they have to pick up."

"It's almost refreshing to hear Niagara County can be moving too fast on something," commented Majority Leader Shirley G. Urtel, R-Cambria.

Sacco said some departments were lagging in sending workers for supplemental training sessions, called "trouble-shooting," in the wake of the initial training last year. "Before you complain, you'd better make sure your people are trained," she said.

Even though the county is two weeks behind on paying its bills because its computer system lacked enough memory to print all the checks when the program went online in November, Sacco said the county also had a cash flow problem near the end of 2000 and said some departments were simply slow in sending bills to the county auditor's office.

Sacco said the county's situation is far preferable to the computer woes during the 1999-2000 year at Niagara County Community College.

Sacco said, "NCCC is going to spend $2.5 million on consultants, and they haven't bought a piece of software yet."

The Legislature is to vote tonight on $25,000 in extra overtime for the treasurer's office workers, related to PeopleSoft implementation.

Sacco said she will need about $1,000 worth of extra overtime in her office and that should be enough "unless something goes terribly wrong."

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