Assessor’s software to alter valuations in county

KINGMAN – The Mohave County Assessor’s Office recently received approval to contract for the software design and implementation of a new valuation system for Mohave County.

The new software would allow for more consistency with the property valuations and will initially cost about $927,764.50, according to Mohave County Assessor Ron Nicholson.

At the recommendation of a citizen’s review committee eight years ago, the Assessor’s Office began looking into a new, technologically-driven valuation system.

According to Nicholson, they have been attending demonstrations of Computer Assisted Appraisal System software to find one that fit the needs of the county in addition to waiting for the prices to come down.

“We have experienced in the last few years, drastic increases in the yearly fees we pay the Department of Revenue.

“The DOR has also contracted out for a new system. The DOR bills each county based upon parcel count. We have the most number of parcels of all the DOR client counties and therefore bear the lion share of the costs,” Nicholson said.

During the DOR conversion process, Nicholson said he and his staff have become “uncomfortable” with the escalating costs, DOR’s lack of progress in the last year and a half, the lack of an actual product, and the amount of control the DOR has over the county’s data and valuation process.

Nicholson said the assessor’s duty is to distribute the tax burden evenly based on market value and statutory law.

Over the past couple of years, he said he has seen too much of a widespread variation in valuation with similar properties.

“We know that there are better ways to arrive at sustainable values, to reduce valuation spread for similar type properties, to achieve efficiencies that will prove cost-effective to government and thereby to the taxpayer,” he said.

Despite this variation, the maintenance costs for using the DOR system have continued to escalate, Nicholson said. This July, he said, the maintenance fees are set to increase from $342,000 to a minimum of $463,000.

In light of all of this information, Nicholson made the decision that the county can do better by itself. He said he believes in his staff and that the county employees have a better understanding of local market forces.

The selection committee unanimously chose the proposal by Colorado CustomWare Inc., Nicholson said. In addition to costing significantly less than the other finalist, it responded to all of the listed needs. Nicholson said they also stood out by offering a “complete and concrete plan for installation and integration with county systems with few (if any) exceptions.” Client satisfaction, proven track record and a clear and understandable proposal, which followed all instructions, put CCI far above the rest, Nicholson said.

According to Nicholson, the project should be completed by November.

Over the course of the next nine years, he estimates this software to save the county approximately $2.6 million.

Annual fees for the first two years will be around $300,000 and will then drop to around $200,000 for a few years after that.

The new program employs cutting edge technology, Nicholson said, that will integrate with the county’s GIS system. It will allow the Assessor’s Office to make all information available and searchable on the Internet for free.

Nicholson said the software would also offer greater efficiency. Instead of relying on paper, field appraisers will go into the field with laptops. These will minimize errors and decrease time spent on each valuation. Instead of spending at least half of their day inputting written information into the system, they will be able to load it directly from the laptop.

Nicholson estimates that the program will start to bring down the value of commercial properties. Using the current system, appraisals act on a cost-market system. In that system, it uses what the building is worth instead of how much revenue it brings into the community. Nicholson said it is more important to look at businesses as an investment and evaluate them according to the revenue they produce.

CCI is a very hands-on company, Nicholson said. They keep in contact with clients on a regular basis to discuss any problems and/or upgrades needed to the software system.

The Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of this software on Jan. 23. Money for the project will come from the Assessor’s Information Storage and Retrieval fund, with annual fees to come from the General Fund.