Case Study: Eagle Takes County Digital
At a Glance
- 18 employees
- 56,389 citizens
- A Tyler Technologies client for more than 30 years
- Inefficient business practices and use of taxpayer money
- No mobile office capabilities
- Too many property value protests
- Not enough communication between appraisers and property owners
- High printing and paper costs
- Cumbersome paper-based workflows
- Tyler Technologies Eagle Assessor and Field Appraiser
- Increased assessor efficiency by 300%
- Reduced formal protests, despite the highest property value increase in Colorado
- Streamlined processes using paperless workflows
- Empowered employees through mobile technology
- Saved on paper and printing costs
- Prevented staff inflation while the rest of the county saw a 6% increase
Jim Yellico, Garfield County assessor, believes that his office has a duty to use the money of its taxpayers as efficiently as possible. After reviewing the current practices when he arrived, Yellico saw opportunities for immediate improvement.
“It’s an ongoing quest for efficiency,” he said. “You’re always trying to find a way to maximize your manpower by utilizing technology.”
Recognizing the need for change, Yellico decided to take the next step. Thanks to its partnership with Tyler and the adoption of new mobile technology, the Garfield County Assessor office would soon be more efficient than ever.
Implementing the Change
Yellico’s top priority in his quest for efficiency was to create a paperless work environment for his appraisers. To do that, he relied on his deputy assessor, Lisa Warder, to roll out the new mobile workflow and paperless processes.
“It was pretty intimidating,” Warder said. “When you’re in a government office, you’re used to working with a lot of paper. It was tough to tell people that we think this is going to be faster, we think they’re going to like this so much better.”
To ease her staff into the new digital process, Warder decided to let someone test the new technology first. She sent one appraiser into the field with a tablet and instructions to put it through its paces and see if it made her job easier. When the appraiser returned to the office, she told Warder that the time savings the new system offered would allow her — and the other appraisers in the department — to work much faster than before.
By taking the data out into the field with us, we were able to update the data and the property cards at the same time.
County Assessor, Garfield County, CO
Soon, the rest of the assessor’s office adopted the new technology. Yellico quickly recognized that his staff could save time and be much more efficient by reevaluating processes that existed before the upgrade.
“By taking the data out into the field on a tablet with us, we were able to update the data and the property cards at the same time,” he said. “The process was to go out and update the info, come back to the office, put it in the computer and update the card. Now, we’re just updating the info in the field.”
Warder discovered that Field Appraiser and Eagle Assessor provided a dual threat of efficiency. Not only could the office appraisers now work without physical property cards, but they could do almost everything they needed to do on the road.
“Some appraisers live 40 miles away, and in the winter that can be tough,” she said. “Now I can tell them to take the computer home and work from their house. If they have to see 50 houses, they can work from home and come into the office later in the week.”
Warder has also noticed that the flexibility of mobile technology means less downtime for the office — for example, during inclement weather or in between other appointments.
Before, you were lucky to get 10 properties done in a day… We found that now, you could go out and do 20 in a day, then download everything at the office right away.
Deputy County Assessor, Garfield County, CO
Doing More, Faster
According to Warder, Field Appraiser and Eagle Assessor have increased the efficiency of the assessor office by 300 percent.
“Before, you were lucky to get 10 properties done in a day, and in a rural area, there may be miles between them,” she said. “You would do 10, and then for the next two days you’d print property record cards, transfer information to the computer system. We found that now, you could go out and do 20 in a day, then download everything at the office right away.”
Yellico has noticed that his office’s efficiency has also increased with regard to research after the appraisal.
“Now that all the records are digital, when an appraiser needs to do research, they don’t need to go through a file cabinet, search for what they need, and refile it,” he said. “It’s all on their desktop. That kind of efficiency can’t be accounted for, but the residual efficiency just keeps getting better and better.”
Yellico also said he already sees this technology benefiting the public.
“Appraisers aren’t the only ones who use these records,” he said. “The public wants them as well, and in the future we’ll have them online and available to view. Our administrative staff answers questions for people all the time, so it helps that they don’t have to pull physical files either.”
A New Kind of Office
Time isn’t the only thing Garfield County is saving, though. As the office has gone digital, the costs for paper supplies that used to take up a significant portion of the budget have been slashed.
“With no more property record cards and no more costs to print those cards, we’re saving tons of money that we used to spend on paper and printing costs,” Warder said.
With less paper comes more space, and Garfield County has already begun to repurpose office space that used to be dedicated to storing physical records.
“At the beginning of this year, we moved out 10 file cabinets,” she said. “At some point, we’ll remodel our office and take up less space in the courthouse, making room for someone else who might be cramped in another building. It really was a dramatic change in thinking for us.”
We had more time to spend with property owners and could support our values better. We knew the market so well because we had more time to do it, and that’s where efficiency really pays off.
County Assessor, Garfield County, CO
Warder also said that increased efficiency has allowed the assessor’s office to prevent inflation of staffing levels without sacrificing productivity — especially important during a time when the number of full-time county employees increased by 6 percent.
Reduction in Protests
During its last appraisal period, Garfield County saw the highest increase in value in the entire state of Colorado. Normally, this would result in a large amount of formal protests from property owners, but Yellico believes that Tyler’s software helped his office avoid a boost in protests.
“We only had two cases go to the board of assessment appeals, and that goes to doing good work,” he said. “By getting out in the field, being more efficient, making sure our records are accurate and not having to spend so much time on just a few properties, we understand our markets better and can put out a better product.”
Yellico went on to say that the time and resources saved by the new system allowed his staff to spend more time on customer service, better equipping appraisers to answer property owners’ questions.
“We had more time to spend with property owners and could support our values better,” he said. “We knew the market so well because we had more time to do it, and that’s where efficiency really pays off.”
Leading by Example
Yellico and Warder understand that change can be daunting, but they have begun to see the rewards of their new initiatives and encourage other counties to explore the options for themselves.
“I tell other counties the first thing they need to do is plan, dream a little bit. See where they want to be years from now,” said Warder. “There will be a cost for software and hardware, but it returns so quickly in the forms of paper supply savings, time and public satisfaction with what you’re doing. Everything just gets returned tenfold.”
During a time of transition, Yellico appreciated that he could count on Tyler’s product and support so he could focus on making the best use of the technology in his office.
“Companies like Tyler don’t want to put a product out there until they’re confident it works,” he said. “Taking the leap to Field Appraiser and abandoning a current way of doing business to spend money on software and computers, along with the precious time of your appraisers. There’s a lot of reassurance in knowing that the company has done a lot of testing. Having faith in your software company is a big deal.”