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EDITORIAL: After $1.3M, York can't make this software work?

York Dispatch Editorial Board
York City Mayor Michael Helfrich speaks during Light Up York in York City, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York City doesn't have a lot of money to play around with.

Every budget season, the city faces tough choices about pension payments, taxes, city departments and much, much more.

So it seems like York City should think long and hard about spending $550,000 on anything, even if the city received a $150,000 grant to offset some of the cost.

So in 2017, when York City spent $550,000 on software to keep track of its finances, we would hope those charged with choosing that software would make sure it worked. 

But apparently they didn't.

And since then, the city has poured another $900,000 into the software to try to get it to do its job.

Unbelievable.

More:$1.3 million software can't handle York City's finances

City officials went to a demonstration in Washington state and decided to go with Microsoft Dynamics AX software to deal with everything from trash and sewer payments to electronic bank reconciliations to grant management tracking. 

They didn't realize that the version of the software they saw demonstrated had a number of upgrades that didn't come with the base version York City bought.

And without the upgrades, the system can't handle many key functions for compiling the city's finances, according to Tom Ray, the city's business administrator. 

So the city kept pouring more money into maintenance and upgrades. And now officials have spent a total of $1.3 million on this system. 

And it still doesn't do everything the city needs, to the point that York City, which is supposed to provide an audit of its finances for the previous year by the end of March, won't have an audit for 2018 until July 2020.

"Trust me, we are trying to fix this system we’re working in. It takes too long," said York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said. "The way it should work is that we do our own compilations in house and then send those to the auditor. And that’s what we’re working on.”

And yet the city has no plans to ditch this system that doesn't work and find another one that does. After spending so much money, the city can't afford to. 

So the city will continue to try to work with a patched-together software system and will give the state an audit 17 months after the end of the fiscal year. This will be the third time in the past 10 years that York City took 17 months to turn in its required audit, while other third-class cities manage to turn them in, not exactly on time, but mostly within eight months or so. 

This is ridiculous. York City needs to get with Microsoft and figure out what it needs to do to make this software work the way it was supposed to. And city officials need to take charge of this situation and get those audits turned around in a timely fashion.

And next time, officials need to make sure they know what they're buying when they spend $550,000 of taxpayer money.