Tax software doesn’t add up

Published 10:27 am Wednesday, March 28, 2018

During a budget work session of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors, county treasurer Patricia Berkeley discussed ongoing concerns with the county’s accounting system and the possibility of seeking a new program vendor. “We’ve had a lot of computer issues since we converted to an updated system with the company we’ve been using since 1994, I believe it was,” Berkeley said.

The company, RDA Systems, updated the existing software to a program called Breeze, in which Charlotte County served as the beta test site for an updated version of the software.

Previously, the due date for real estate and personal property taxes in the county were extended because of problems with the software system.

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors previously approved a motion to charge no penalties on payments made before the end of January.

The original due date was Dec. 5, and Berkeley previously said an extension of up to 90 days was allowed. “While things are a little better than they were, we are nowhere near where we need to be,” she said. “There’s a lot of processes we can’t even do.”

Berkeley said the situation was very frustrating and she has a lot of concerns in light of the system issues. She said in order to create a delinquent list, she would have to call RDA Systems.

“I can’t even do it myself,” Berkeley said. “I’m tired of not being able to do what I need to do. I need that system to work for me, not me work it.”

She said at this time, a lot of tax bills still need to be collected, and the county currently has collected $70,000 less at this point over last year. “It’s having a huge impact, not just on collections, Berkeley said. “I have concerns about the audit coming up at the end of the year. I just think we need to look at where we’re at and have an open discussion with the Commissioner of Revenue as well.”

She said there may be a need to explore the possibility of seeing what other programs are available that would suit the needs of the county. “I just want to leave that on the table . . . I cannot continue working in the environment we’re in . . .,” Berkeley said.

She said it was important to her and her staff that the tax information is accurate. “I’m just not happy at all with the way things are going,” Berkeley said.

Naisha Carter, Commissioner of Revenue for Charlotte County, said the issues with the Breeze software has caused her staff to incur 30-35 hours of overtime. “We seem to be doing more things manually than we used to,” she said.

Carter said she can see the program just causing problems in general. “We just can’t function at the rate that other offices do with what we have now,” she said.

Carter said the reason for this is because the county was helping develop the program. “I can’t help develop it and then do my work as well,” she said.

When asked by Aspen/ Phenix Supervisor Donna Fore if she would benefit from going out with an RFP to see if there was a better solution available, Carter responded “yes.”

Drakes Branch Supervisor Garland H. Hamlett, Jr. asked Berkeley what software packages adjacent counties were typically using to which she responded the majority of them were using the Bright system. She said she has viewed options from many vendors in the past and attended many conferences looking at the different programs available. “I think there are more out there that are more in scale to this area,” Berkeley said.

“My opinion is it’s your decision to try to come up with what’s the best program for you, and it’s our decision to figure out if we can afford it. But you’re the one that’s got to work with it every day…,” said Gary Walker, Chairman of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors.

County Administrator Russell B. Clark Jr.. also mentioned that the administration office and school system also use the same accounting system. “Her part of it is a module that is giving the problem, the rest of it’s working fine,” he said.

According to the county’s website, county taxes are billed twice each fiscal year. Taxes are typically due Dec. 5 for the first half of the fiscal year and June 5 for the remainder of the year.

Charlotte County is currently the only locality using the updated system.