Eagle Supports Second-Largest County
- Industry: County Government
- Location: Flagstaff, Arizona
- Number of Employees: 26
- Population: 140,000
- Tyler Client Since: 2005
- Tyler Products Used: Eagle Assessor™, Eagle Recorder™, Eagle Treasurer™, ExecuTime™, Munis®
Coconino County is the second-largest county in the contiguous United States, spanning approximately 19,000 square miles. Supporting Flagstaff, Arizona, and a population of roughly 140,000 people, the Coconino County Assessor’s Office has always maintained a close working relationship with its constituents. The office manages property records information for the county and strives to employ processes that ensure fair and equitable valuations of all properties within the jurisdiction. In Coconino, business personal property is self-reported, and the critical data the office needs for accurate assessments comes directly from the taxpayer. So, a business property owner would need to understand not only how to accurately report their information, but also what taxable items must be reported to arrive at a fair market value.
Cecilia Schmidt, business applications specialist for the county, recalled just how frustrating it was to manage certain operations prior to implementing new Tyler solutions.
“We were doing a lot of manual entries. We’d literally go line by line and enter the personal property inventories as they came in. So, you can imagine, some of these businesses have huge inventories and that took some time.”
With any process that is nuanced and relies on accuracy, there is always a concern for validity and reliability of the data. In this case, the county believed inconsistencies might exist between reported values and actual values, and without a more efficient, comprehensive, and standardized system in place, it would need to consider how to best educate constituents while also validating data. Additional concerns such as the aforementioned manual data entry and capable reporting functionality were strongly considered when determining how to confront this challenge head-on.
After discussion with staff and stakeholders, it was determined the county would need to engage in a multiyear, full audit and business outreach program to validate data, reduce friction points for taxpayers, and streamline processes to get everyone on the same page. The initial audit would review the 2019 tax year as well as the previous three years of history, and the management of this data was of the utmost priority. Data for each year would need to be entered in a certain format, indexed appropriately, and stored with the proper account. Initiating a countywide audit would be no small task and implementing a process to gain more accurate data was not just an immediate goal — it would provide an updated baseline for business personal property data for years to come.
To support this undertaking, the county needed a software solution that was user-friendly yet capable enough to handle workflow adaptations, tracking, and reporting, while also storing data in a central location to avoid multiple overlapping software systems.
The county selected Eagle™ software from Tyler to help support operations through this transition and strengthen the relationship with its community. The Eagle assessing software module proved to be a great fit for the needs of the county during this audit and beyond.
We know all the support folks, and I feel like they are invested in the solutions that we need. They’re open to enhancement ideas — which is a huge thing — and that relationship, to me, is invaluable.
Business Applications Specialist
First, the ability to initiate a single point of reference for the audit within the Eagle system was critical. The Tyler system served as the repository for all the data collected — reducing headaches and time spent searching for information. To manage this project, the office created a new workflow involving appraisers, staff, management, and other key personnel, allowing for the important review and step-by-step tracking of progress for each individual audit. Program Manager Jeremy Pittman, along with other office staff, helped to ensure the worflows were set up correctly. The new process automation would allow Coconino County to improve communication and streamline workflows, while storing and managing all the independent files — instead of consulting multiple systems and watching paperwork move from pile to pile around the office.
The office also began to upload and import data digitally — greatly reducing the amount of manual data entry and keystrokes in comparison to its prior process. The reduction of clerical work was a huge benefit for the county; staff could undertake more audits with fewer resources and employees had more time to focus on other high-priority tasks they might not have been able to work on — boosting the overall productivity of the office.
“Eagle’s easy upload allowed us to format an Excel spreadsheet and automatically upload it into a business personal property inventory model within the system, and that alone saves a ton of time,” said Schmidt.
Outside the office, constituents submitting business personal property information also saw faster turnaround time as a result of this digital upload process. Businesses could inquire about the data they submitted and could confirm everything was done correctly and equitably. This streamlined process improved trust between the county and local businesses — a welcomed additional benefit.
Eagle’s robust and customizable reporting functions also made the audit less challenging. The office was able to generate several reports to reveal important change-in-value trends, to calculate total values of itemized inventories for individual accounts, and more. Without the proper reporting functions to summarize and clarify the data, the county would have needed to touch every single account manually. So, the reports were used in review for quality assurance, as well as to instruct business owners on the importance of proper self-assessment — the more the public knew about the process, the more accurate their data would be.
As the audit progressed, the county was able to get a firmer grasp on its actual valuations for the properties within its jurisdiction and educate its constituents while doing so.
As a result of the county’s diligent efforts to streamline processes, Coconino achieved an increase in new total value of $2.24 million for the first year of the audit, and it’s still ongoing. The workflows, process improvements, and reporting functions now serve as a reliable foundation for operations moving forward. The county now has improved processes that save time and build trust with its constituents. Eagle software makes valuing all property fairly and equitably an achievable and consistent goal for Coconino.
The Eagle system offers significant benefits. While the upload piece is a big time-saver for us, the automated workflows we created throughout this process are major components in making our organization more efficient and precise.
The county is also sharing its successes with other Eagle users across the state. As active participants in Eagle user groups, reports or processes created by Coconino can be shared directly with other users’ systems to help them save time and refine operations. This user group setting allows Coconino to align with other offices, consult on processes and system functions, and proactively plan for or consult challenges before they become more complex — all benefiting the constituents across the state of Arizona.
Coconino County now operates with less manual effort, more efficiency, greater transparency, and more intuitive processes. Moving forward, the assessor’s office has a more accurate data foundation as a result of its audit and can continue to provide a high level of customer service while sticking to its guiding principle — offering fair and equitable valuations of all property within its jurisdiction.