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Manatron company responds to taxpayers

BY Marty A. Ulanski


Government software is typically not a topic most newsrooms find terribly interesting. Yet during the past several weeks there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the recent property tax software implementation done by a consortium of 28 Minnesota counties (the Minnesota Counties Computer Cooperative, or MCCC) that purchased Manatron software.

In the media and elsewhere, there have been reports of tax bill delays and other problems, with Manatron products frequently cited as the source of all of these issues. Our company is never one to dodge or deny responsibility, and we certainly would not claim to have been perfect in executing the MCCC project. However, we also think that taxpayers deserve the full picture.

Manatron is a global company, and our software and services provide more than 1,500 state and local government customers the ability to manage 40 million-plus parcels in a way that enhances revenue collection, while saving taxpayer money at the same time. Our company has a heritage - a unique history - of sticking with projects and seeing our customers through to success. Things can get tough, of course. But we never run and hide from accountability and we always come through for our clients.

In Minnesota, first and foremost we feel compelled to state that a wide range of counties - both within and outside the MCCC - have successfully converted to Manatron software and are currently utilizing it for their property tax needs. Contrary to published reports, our products are established and proven in Minnesota.

MCCC carefully selected Manatron after a thorough "RFP" process based on a number of factors, including cost savings, but primarily cited the company's "open, web-based" technology as one that would "grow with them" through the years. And in many cases across the MCCC, we believe we have delivered just that, and these county officials would agree.

At the same time, complex conversions of this size can be frustrating, time consuming and flat-out aggravating. Though our property tax experience spans many years and both national and international jurisdictions, when this process began more than five years ago, Manatron found the Minnesota tax code a unique challenge.

These challenges were compounded by the wide range of counties represented within the MCCC. Simply stated, some smaller counties with no IT staff or budget understandably could not devote the time and energy of the larger counties to training and preparation. As a result, some MCCC counties wound up pushing far ahead in the process, while others required more support and guidance.

Manatron is sorry that several of these smaller counties within the consortium ultimately did not continue to use the Manatron system after they were converted last year. This is especially unfortunate since these counties now will have to start all over at tremendous cost of converting to a new property tax system at some time in the future. In addition, they are not able to take immediate advantage of the significant annual savings the Manatron system provides. While disappointed, we respect their right to do what they think is in the best interest of taxpayers.

Manatron would like to acknowledge that among the counties who stayed the course and are using the Manatron system today, all were willing to put in plenty of long days, evenings, and weekends to make up for limited staff and resources. Their personal dedication to learning, testing and changing out their old antiquated property software to the new Manatron system, while still performing their "day jobs" serving the taxpayers of Minnesota, was nothing short of inspiring to Manatron.

Manatron worked closely with the consortium of 28 counties to manage and test this project and complied with the scope of the contract the MCCC had established at the onset. We will continue to see it through to a successful conclusion. In fact, despite reports to the contrary, in the case of the 17 Minnesota counties that went "live," all got their tax bills out this year. Some counties were a week or so earlier than last year and some were a week or so later, but all Manatron counties met the required state deadline of April 25 and not one single county incurred any state penalties.

Manatron is a company that takes its customers' satisfaction seriously. And in Minnesota, that means the counties and the taxpaying residents who reside in them. Throughout this conversion process, Manatron has been ready, willing and able to continue working with the remaining counties to ensure their implementations were completed. While we regret the delays and hiccups along the way, we truly believe the interests and individuals of each county are better served as a result of Minnesota counties using the new Manatron property tax system in the long run.