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Software Problems Plague Henderson County, N.C.

Many of the issues are categorized as "critical," or as issues that "impede the operation of the entire software or major portions of the county's business operations."

by Derek Lacey, Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C. / May 4, 2017

(TNS) -- Henderson County, N.C., is working to make sure its planned 2019 revaluation goes ahead as scheduled in the face of mounting problems with a software program the county tax department is using.

At its meeting Monday night, the Board of Commissioners was updated by Tax Administrator Darlene Burgess on the status of issues her department is having with its software system. She was also asked to answer a question she was asked at the April 3 meeting: "Are you confident that the software will allow the county to facilitate a successful 2019 reappraisal?"

Explaining that the department has more issues now than it did on April 3, Burgess answered "No," but the board decided to push forward with the current system, hoping to work out the problems.

Burgess told the board that the Tax Department, as of Monday's meeting, had approximately 100 unresolved issues with the software, a product of Farragut Systems called "Denali," compared with the 77 issues it had on April 3.

The number of issues increased, she said, because more have been identified as the department moves forward with is daily business processes and because issues have been observed by Farragut's onsite project manager.

Of those issues, 32 are categorized as "critical," or issues that "impede the operation of the entire software or major portions of the county's business operations and a workaround is not available," according to Burgess' presentation.

Fifty issues were categorized as "major," or substantial issues, but ones with a workaround. The remaining 28 were categorized as "minor."

Commissioner Bill Lapsley said he’s nervous about where this is heading. Commissioner Grady Hawkins said, "If you go from 77 problems to over 100 in less than a month, that's unacceptable for this company to only be able to provide that amount of service."

The answer to the reappraisal question right now, Burgess said, is no, the tax department is not confident that the current system can perform the necessary functions required for the 2019 reappraisal.

She said the department would take steps to improve the situation, including reallocating staff, conducting mandatory training provided by the software vendor and presenting a reappraisal plan in the near future.

She said it’s still not clear if the department would be able to complete most of the tasks to be ready for that reappraisal. She showed a list of 16 tasks dependent on the system, and only two were marked as successful; one was marked undoable and the rest were questionable.

"One thing that kind of worries me," Burgess said, "is the fact that we still have several processes that we have not tried yet and I don't know — like billing, you know — are we going to run into problems with billing? I worry about that; I feel like we should need to be on that well before Aug. 28."

Burgess presented two options to the board — they could continue to work with the vendor on a fast-track basis to resolve all issues, providing progress reports to the board and county management, and if targets aren't met for reappraisal tasks, then revisit the issue. Or they could consider an immediate change in vendors.

Lapsley asked that since the county voluntarily conducts revaluations every four years instead of the state-mandated eight years, would there be any legal ramifications if the county pushed its revaluation back by a year? The answer was no.

"What we're finding is this tool's not working, and it's put us behind the eight ball," said County Manager Steve Wyatt.

He recommended that the county push forward with the current vendor, which the county decided to do, and asked for another update in 30 days. He quoted Hawkins in saying, "There better be a negative number in the number of open issues as opposed to added issues."

But even though the board is staying with Farragut for now, Board Chair Mike Edney said, "it's a short string in my mind before we pull it and go somewhere else."

©2017 Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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