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The Nevada Independent

Nevada DMV says $300M increase for computer upgrade project is ‘a worst case scenario’

The agency director said it is pursuing ways to bring down the cost but did not provide specifics on what a revised estimate might look like.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
GovernmentState Government

One month after Nevada DMV officials said their long-running effort to upgrade the agency’s computer systems would likely cost $300 million more and take three years longer than originally planned, the agency’s director said Tuesday that the estimate was “a worst case scenario” and that the DMV is pursuing ways to bring down the cost.

For years, the Nevada DMV has sought to upgrade and revamp its antiquated computer systems by moving more features online (such as a platform to submit vehicle titles electronically), but the massive project has faced myriad delays and other obstacles.

In April, DMV officials told state legislators that they had recently determined agency IT staff were not equipped to implement some of the project changes on top of their existing jobs, forcing the agency to shift those responsibilities to an outside contractor. The announcement surprised lawmakers, especially given that the agency had said in March that the project was within its approved $125 million budget and on track to be completed by September 2026.

DMV Director Tonya Laney said in April that “we feel like we’re pretty darn close” to finalizing the revised project cost. An agency spokesperson also told The Indy at the time that this was an “early projection” on project cost.

However, at Tuesday’s meeting of the state Board of Examiners —  a panel consisting of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general — Laney said the $300 million price increase for the system modernization project was not likely to happen, but did not provide specifics on what a revised estimate might look like.

To offset project costs, Laney said the agency is looking to fill vacancies with people who have skills to assist with the future computer system and has consulted with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, which is “ready and willing” to train employees, if needed. Laney added that the agency is also exploring federal grants.

Laney acknowledged that relying on an outside contractor would cost additional money, but that the agency faces challenges in hiring certain experts because of caps on state employee compensation.

“Any ask for an increase will be thoughtful,” Laney said Tuesday.

Tuesday’s testimony is the latest update in the long-awaited project for the DMV to upgrade its computer systems, which are run by antiquated technologies including COBOL.

In 2015, lawmakers approved a $1 “technology fee” assessed on all customer transactions to help fund a five-year system modernization project, which was eventually ruled unconstitutional and refunds were provided. Three years later, a state audit found that the contractor was months behind schedule, providing inadequate staffing levels and missing deadlines for project documentation. Despite spending close to $30 million, the state terminated the contract in early 2018.

The project eventually restarted in 2021 with a new contractor and an ambitious goal to finish the project within four years, despite similar efforts typically taking around eight years. 

Laney said last month that the project was not delayed, but was at the upper end of the original timeline. She also said on Tuesday that the project is not simply a computer upgrade, but also “an entire departmental reorganization” that is “a massive undertaking.”

In response to a question from Gov. Joe Lombardo on Tuesday, Laney said the agency is also working to create a timeline on its website so that the public can track project progress. The agency’s website currently describes the project as “a multiyear, continuous” effort. Last month, the same page described the initiative as a “four-year project.”

The agency is planning to roll out the “core functionality” of certain vehicle registration and titling processes this summer, Laney added on Tuesday.

The agency previously announced plans to to roll out major components together under a “unified release,” rather than its original intention to release all updates incrementally. On Tuesday, Laney attributed this, in part, to the delay of certain software help from the DMV’s parent organization, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.


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