Multi-Year Tax Roadmap Helps County, Citizens
Industry: County Government
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Number of Employees: 6,000+
Number of Years as a Tyler Client: 30+
Tyler Product Used: CLT Appraisal Services™, iasWorld®, Modria®, Odyssey®, re:Search, Socrata®
Fulton County, the state’s most populous county, serves a population of more than a million people. With roughly 6,000 employees, the county must be a step ahead of its public on its proactive push for more connected government offices. Over its many years as a Tyler client, Fulton has implemented various solutions aligning with this vision to assist with a litany of day-to-day operations, each building on the other. As the county progressed in its use of technology, there became a greater need to begin connecting disparate data, optimizing disconnected work groups, reducing paperwork, and limiting effort. With separate offices requiring complex functionality and leveraging data from different files and different systems, the county would look again to Tyler for solutions to bridge the gap and offer streamlined communication, accuracy, and reliability.
Fulton County also felt a need to streamline operations county-wide and reaffirm the public’s trust in the accuracy and efficiency of the tax system. The county manages around 250,000 parcels in its jurisdiction, so accurate, efficient assessment and taxation is critical. One particular challenge came as the 2017 tax digest was in preparation and public pushback and legislation caused a freeze at 2016 valuations. Moving forward and assuming the original assessments were accurate, the county would need to exhibit accuracy in values as it advised the public of a likely increase in 2018. This brought about a real predicament involving the government and the public, and the county faced many political and operational challenges it would need to overcome. If the valuations were not accurate, and the public was not able to have clarity and transparency, the organization would again find itself working to prove its capabilities.
Some capabilities, like the connection between the tax assessor’s office, the county clerk’s office, and the Board of Equalization, would need refining. Staff would make copies of paperwork and manually transport hard copies between the offices. Data entry errors also existed because of this process — as one office received files, the other needed to re-enter certain information from forms. Across the county, operations needed support with software tools and technology to allow staff to be more efficient and productive — a transformation the offices had long been planning.
This transformation would require significant input from various offices to create a “tax road map” to roll out enhancements to operations over time. The county meticulously planned and orchestrated software and services improvements with holistic goals in mind — to ensure transparency, increase self-service options, reduce effort, facilitate enhanced communications, and streamline processes. With continued support, the collaboration between county officials and Tyler would offer multiple technology-forward changes to reach these goals. One step at a time.
“As technology grows, we have a need to get more and more self-service options to our customers,” said chief information officer, Glenn Melendez, “and some of these solutions we’ve put in place with our tax road map really have enabled us to increase self-service options. These features and functionality have allowed us to grow with technology.”
Starting in 2003, the county began to implement more features of iasWorld® with functionality such as computerassisted mass appraisal (CAMA), tax billing and collections, and mobile assessments. Following the tax road map, additional critical tools like iasWorld® SmartFile and iasWorld Public Access™ bring even more efficiencies, and the county continues to follow its vision for a more transparent, connected, and operationally tuned organization.
The iasWorld SmartFile feature allows the county to streamline the appeals process while ensuring communication with the public is transparent. Assisting the county in processing roughly 40,000 pending appeals, the software cuts processing time by automating certain steps, reduces errors from manual entry, and lets staff update each other about application status quickly. Now, the public can complete forms easier and submit them digitally when convenient — reducing office work and boosting turnaround times. Adoption of the technology was almost immediate, with more than 60 percent of appeals generated electronically in the first few months. Offering this ability to citizens also allows other processes within the organization to benefit from the digitization.
I’ve learned so much about what we can do. We’ve made a lot of advancements and changes behind the scenes. Our processes have become much more streamlined and efficient. I think that we’ve kind of grown together.
Information Systems Manager
One such process is the communication of parcel values to the public — to ensure citizens understand the valuations and to educate them on the level of dedication and accuracy involved in the calculations. iasWorld Public Access offers upfront information about other nearby parcels, so citizens can see comparable values for themselves. This re-engages the communities in interacting with the county offices and stabilizes public trust for future assessments. Moving forward, the county is looking for additional opportunities for using the self-service and electronic filing capabilities to support processes outside of the tax system that might require filing or county involvement.
Within the county’s tax billing and collections operations, the Tyler software is truly a game-changer. iasWorld Tax™ capabilities along with electronic filing allow the county to process liens and payments much faster. Instead of printing thousands and thousands of sheets of paper and delivering them to the clerk’s office to index, scan, and upload the information, the county can digitally transfer and record the information. Now, in some instances, they can complete the same day instead of taking days, weeks, even months to process liens. Large numbers of payments, through batch processing, take minutes opposed to many hours. In regard to third-party liens, the county recently transferred about $38 million in a few hours, as opposed to waiting and waiting for the transfer process to complete. Time savings here means the county can collect revenue faster, allocate money appropriately, and mitigate issues with debts or otherwise easier.
The multi-year tax road map, guided by the effort of many county offices, appears to be gaining some excellent momentum. In the 2018 tax year, the county settled bills in August. By first quarter 2019, the county had already achieved 98 percent collection rate and could plan to distribute information much earlier. Transactions happen faster, processes are steadily optimizing, citizen engagement is up, and county employees are more productive. Proceeding along its tax road map, Fulton is now looking to implement more Tyler solutions, such as iasWorld Field Mobile™, a mobile appraisal tool, to provide capabilities to its appraisers and field staff. The improvements and efficiencies don’t end there.
The Fulton County staff experience efficiencies across many offices. The Board of Equalization can engage in mass scheduling for multiple people at one time and can now schedule the calendar for the year in a few minutes instead of weeks or months. In minutes, the board can insert parcel information into court hearing records so pertinent data is available, as opposed to taking days to manually enter parcel information one piece at a time. Then, QR codes on documents are batch scanned into the system after hearings, and this saves time having to photocopy items and manually transfer paperwork to the tax assessor’s office. The offices can create custom reports sorted by property role type, share information downstream or upstream to keep everyone involved, and simply process tasks faster.
In the tax assessor’s office, processes require less manual effort, communication is faster and clearer, and data is no longer an underutilized asset. The collaboration with other offices allows the tax assessor’s office to obtain up-to-date information collected and uploaded by appraisers or clerks and share it or act appropriately. Instead of deeds taking many weeks or months to show up in the system for taxation, employees can view a filed, active deed in a matter of days.
Whether in the tax assessor’s office, the county clerk’s office, the Board of Equalization, or otherwise, the county’s tax road map guides the improvements experienced by the staff and constituents. The county eliminated manual steps like hand-importing and recording stacks of paperwork as employees can now trust the software’s indexing and character recognition functions to automatically import pieces quickly and correctly. iasWorld arranges role-specific information within the software’s activity center, so employees are easily aware of updated files, data, and responsibilities. All areas of the government recognize the significant impact they have on operations, and with the use of Tyler’s powerful solutions and the tax road map as a guide, offices work more closely and seamlessly than ever before.
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iasWorld is the industry’s most robust property appraisal and tax administration software. With its iasWorld CAMA™ solution for property appraisal and iasWorld Tax™ for tax billing and collections, the software can help you tackle your toughest challenges. Its complete web-based, GIS-enabled toolset comes with a full complement of integrated solutions like iasWorld Public Access™ for citizen transparency, iasWorld® SmartFile for electronic data capture, and iasWorld Field Mobile™ for field appraisal work.
Together, the iasWorld software and its integrated solutions are a powerful blend of innovative functionality and reliable performance.