TAD and its contractor, Thomson Reuters Corp., failed at several points in designing and delivering the $3.3 million project, and they placed it in service in 2014 knowing that more than 100 of its broad requirements were still lacking.
They failed to seek input from the 73 local taxing bodies that TAD serves, and two TAD managers placed in charge of the project lacked experience in implementing complex technology projects.
Testing protocols were insufficient, and TAD failed to notify taxing districts of the new system’s faults before placing it in service.
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In short, management of the project was amateurish, far short of what should be expected from an agency supported by tax money — and on the hot-button issue of determining who will owe how much in property taxes.
TAD commissioned the audit from the Weaver consulting firm in May after taxing entities raised a storm of complaints. School districts, in particular, complained that they lost millions in potential tax revenues because of faulty appraisals processed through the new system.
In its response to the report, TAD acknowledged that its performance “fell short” in some areas and that the new system “has not fully met our expectations.”
TAD officials emphasized at several points how much they had relied on Thomson Reuters for technical expertise. They said their understanding of such complicated projects has “evolved over this process,” and they’ve learned they should do a better job of “vendor management.”
They said TAD has taken several steps to fix procedures, including forming a quality assurance team to validate appraisal reports sent to local governments.
Representatives of TAD’s client taxing entities make up its board of directors. They’ll have to decide whether TAD’s managers fell so far short on this project that local leaders’ confidence is irreparably shaken.
A crucial element of that decision must be TAD’s failure to bring its client entities into the loop on the system’s known problems before the “go-live” date in 2014.
TAD’s leaders say the new system “is much improved and has much to offer all parties.”
The key question now is whether local government officials are willing to take TAD’s word for it.