New Mexico County Still Having Y2K Problems

Bernalillo County, New Mexico, treasurer Daniel Aragon yesterday claimed that a $4.5 million software package that the county bought to carry it through the year 2000 date rollover and streamline the way it collects and disburses property-tax revenue still isn't functioning properly. And he's blaming the vendor.

Aragon said the Integrated Assessment Package (IAS) that the county bought from Cole-Layer-Trumble Co. (CLT) in Dayton, Ohio, two years ago is doing only half of what it's supposed to do.

He said the software, which runs on a relational database from Oracle Corp., can handle the collection of property taxes but isn't able to properly disburse the money to various county agencies. The county includes New Mexico's largest city, Albuquerque.

While CLT President Bruce Nagel acknowledges that there is a problem with the software developed by his company - he said the fixes could cost CLT at least an additional $1 million - he and Aragon disagree on the root cause of the problem.

Aragon explained that property taxes collected by the county are disbursed to 14 agencies, each of which is charged 0.75% of the money they receive to offset the cost of the county's collection process. The IAS was supposed to deduct that fee before disbursing the money to each agency, but Aragon said it fails to do so.

"The vendor told us his system would (perform the deduction function)," Aragon said. "And the product was supposed to be (fully operational) by November. They assured us everything would be fine, but they ran into flaws with the system, and now they're six months behind (schedule). This is a classic example of a software vendor not being able to deliver the product they promised (on time)."

Aragon said the agencies are being paid based on last year's disbursements pending completion of the new system.

Nagel agreed that the major sticking point in the application is the fee that needs to be collected. But he said the cause of the problem is that the specification for that function wasn't included in Albuquerque's customization request.

"It's our fault for not understanding what (was going to happen)," Nagel said.

"We thought the software was going to work, but when we ran the program, we found out there were pieces missing in the specifications."

Not so, said Aragon.

"They would come to us and say (a particular function) was not in the specs, then we would go to the specs and show them that it was there," Aragon said.

"The lesson here is not to take anything for granted. We'd tell the vendor we wanted something to work a certain way, and they'd say, 'Oh, we have a new way.' So we'd say OK. But then it turned out it we weren't talking about the same functions."

Nagel said the problem should be resolved within a couple of weeks. But Aragon is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"They told us it would be ready 90 days ago," he said.

"This is going to be a great product," Aragon said. "The problem is we weren't buying this. We were buying a finished product."

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