As part of the new $220 million St. Mary’s County budget, the treasurer’s office gets a $145,000 software upgrade. The trouble is, the elected treasurer says, she didn’t request it and doesn’t want it.
“I didn’t know anything about it until Friday,” Jannette Norris, county treasurer, said Wednesday.
In a June 16 letter to the county commissioners she wrote, “I was surprised because I was never consulted or informed that this item was in the budget and even though I am retiring at the end of the year, I am still the elected St. Mary’s County treasurer. Administrative decisions are up to the elected treasurer and that position will be decided this November in the general election. It would then be up to information technology to consult with the new treasurer as to whether or not he or she would be in favor of this huge increase to change the tax collection program.”
Norris said excluding salaries, the office’s yearly operating budget is $43,300. “I just want you and the taxpayers to know that adding an additional $145,000 for the operation of this department next year was not at my request, or even discussed with me, and in my opinion, not necessary,” she wrote.
“We’re good. We don’t need any additional technology,” she said Wednesday.
The treasurer’s office doesn’t use voice mail because Norris said she prefers that her staff answer the phone personally.
All of the software used in county government is under the budget of the St. Mary’s County Department of Emergency Services and Technology. “It is in my budget,” that department’s director, Bob Kelly, said of the $145,000 software upgrade.
Almost all of county government offices use a uniform software system, including the finance department, human resources, land use and growth management and the 911 center. The treasurer’s office is not on that system and it cannot directly share information with the finance department or land use and growth management, Kelly said. “It’s not integrated to anything,” he said.
Kelly said county government has tried to update the treasurer’s software before. “We tried to do it in previous years and it hasn’t happened. What better time to do it? It will be an opportunity for a new treasurer,” he said.
Norris is retiring this year after five terms. Kelly’s wife, Christy, is one of the three candidates for treasurer to replace her who will be on the November ballot. The other two candidates are Carrie Swartz and Steve Gelrud.
There is no implementation date yet for the new software, Kelly said. “If the current treasurer is interested in doing an early implementation, we could make that happen,” he said.
The new software would allow the treasurer’s office to receive online payments, and people could see their property tax bill online. “You cannot do that in St. Mary’s County today,” Kelly said.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said of the upgrade.
“If not now, when?” Rebecca Bridgett, county administrator, said of the upgrade timing. “Now may be the time to automate the system for our taxpayers.”
Former county commissioner Daniel H. Raley (D) ran for treasurer when his third consecutive term ended in 2010 on a platform of updating the treasurer’s office’s technology, but he lost in the primary election with 1,746 votes to Norris’ 4,520.