County assessors thrilled over new mass appraisal system's potential
July 22, 2020
County assessors are in the midst of implementing a long-anticipated but complicated new software system that they hope will result in more efficient and more accurate property valuations for tax assessment purposes.
"I knew this conversion would be a major milestone in my first term as assessor, and I am excited that the day has finally come," said Alfalfa County Assessor Jennifer Roach. "I am most excited about converting to the new system because I believe it will be the first step in getting our information ready for a searchable website."
Roach said that while she and her staff are happy to provide information by phone or in person, "we are increasingly asked if our information is online," she said. "Much of the information in our office is public record, so if we can make it easier to access we want to be able to provide that service."
Woods, Woodward and Ellis counties are also in the midst of the conversion, said Roach, and the common experience will benefit all of them.
"We have built very good partnerships with our neighboring counties, so this process will be made easier by sharing lessons and techniques," she said.
A Long-Needed Upgrade
"The system we've had for years is ancient," said Woods County Assessor Renetta Benson. Built in the '80s, the DOS-based system provided by the state required assessors to figure out myriad work-arounds to get the system to work on today's computers.
Further, the assessment process involved two separate software systems that required duplicating work – first entering data into one system, and then into the other. "We've needed a new system for a jillion years," Benson said, laughing.
The county assessor association has been working on the problem for the past decade, and in 2018 the legislature finally approved getting a new system for the assessors. For the last year, counties across the state have gradually been phased in, with assessor staff receiving onsite training.
"So that's what we're in the process of right now, getting everybody converted over to the new system. We got our conversion (package) last week and we're trying to figure out how to work it all," Benson said. "It's so different. It's going to be so much easier, and it's all done on one system, and it all works on one system. It will be wonderful."
Learning Curve Likely
"Converting to the new LandMark GIS system will not be done overnight," cautioned Roach. "We have been working for the last year and a half to clean up mapping overlays, reduce redundant notes, and make addresses more consistent with USPS standards. Going forward we will undergo a lot of training and work to double check all of our information transferred correctly," she said.
"Our goal is to roll the taxable values to the treasurer from the new system, but we are still maintaining the information in the old system as a backup. This means for the next several months we will be doing data input for everything we do twice and it doubles our workload, but we feel it is necessary for the accuracy of our records," Roach said.
The Alfalfa County assessor's office closed this week for online training, Roach said, "but we will also have an additional week of training with an instructor working with us in our office. While this is an extremely busy time in our office, it is our goal to continue providing information and assistance to our patrons, so if someone calls our office, they will get a return call in the evening, or first thing the following morning."
It's all a bit chaotic, but Roach knows she and her staff will handle it all just fine.
"I knew this would be a huge undertaking during this term in office and I am very proud of how my the staff in my office has stepped up their game for this challenge. My three deputies are Lydia Wilson, Desireé Gibson and Melissa Gibson – they were all hired Jan. 2, 2019, so they have learned a lot and are dedicated to serving the taxpayers in our area," Roach said.