Millions Over Budget, Years Late and Glitchy: OC is Still Working on New Property Tax

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Orange County is millions over budget and years behind schedule in upgrading its crucial-yet-outdated system to track what people owe in property taxes. And, county officials say they’ve been finding glitches in the proposed software that they are working to fix before it goes live.

The system – known as ATS for the Assessment Tax System – handles over $7 billion per year in property taxes in Orange County that fund everything from schools to law enforcement.

And the county’s current system is ancient – created in 1987 on an obsolete programming language that few people know how to code today.

Years ago, county officials set out to create a new system to replace it, scheduled to finish in August 2019.

It’s now more than two years late.

The original price tag has also nearly doubled – from $7.5 million to about $14 million.

And county officials say they’re “finding a significant number of defects” as they test the system, contributing to the delays.

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Asked about the delays, overruns, and glitches, Orange County’s elected Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Freidenrich said the project is now on track within the latest budget and schedule.

“I reviewed the report and recognized that both schedule and budget show as red, but we have revised the schedule and budget and we are within schedule and budget currently,” Freidenrich, who is helping oversee the project, said in an email to Voice of OC.

She was referring to the newer plans after overruns that doubled the original price and added more than two years to the schedule.

Asked for more info about why the project’s gone over-budget and behind schedule – and who’s paying for the overruns – Freidenrich referred comment to the lead project manager: county Auditor-Controller Frank Davies.

In an interview, Davies said one of the biggest reasons the cost went up is the contractor’s original price quote was based on using an automatic system from the contractor to save time, but it didn’t end up working out.

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