Customer Spotlight: Kootenai County, Idaho Experiencing increased accuracy, productivity and constituent satisfaction

Aumentum Spotlight – Kootenai County, Idaho

Through the implementation of Aumentum across county offices, Kootenai County, Idaho has improved constituent services, gained efficiencies that translate directly to tax payer dollar savings and improved productivity allowing for staff flexibility.

The Challenge: A 1980s Legacy System

Our old tax system made it very difficult for our office to function properly

Kootenai County’s Recorder, Assessor and Treasurer offices were using antiquated legacy systems to record, appraise properties and manage their tax billing and collection processes. According to Mike McDowell, Kootenai County Assessor, the nature of the county’s properties and Idaho State law presented his office with unique challenges. McDowell explains: “Being a recreational location, Kootenai County has a very diverse residential property type mix — we have everything from 1000 square foot ranchers to seven million dollar estate type homes — and the same is true for our commercial properties which include several large resorts. In addition, Idaho State law requires that we physically inspect each property in the county at least once within each five year cycle. With our old system we were working harder, but not smarter.”

Laurie Thomas, Kootenai County Chief Deputy Treasurer agrees. “Our old tax system made it very difficult for our office to function properly, even though our staff worked very hard, we were not as productive as we could have been.” And this was also the case in the Recorder’s office according to Susette Clements, County Recording Manager. “The previous records management system was not very efficient. For example, in order to perform our opening and closing procedures we had to utilize other non-system programs — not the most productive way to start and end the day.”

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Aumentum integrates Recorder, Assessor and Treasurer processes for Kootenai County, Idaho

The seat of Kootenai County, Idaho, is located in Coeur d’Alene, a city on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The county’s 20 lakes, mountain ranges and a national forest has made it a destination for outdoors enthusiasts and tourists from all over the world. The third most populous county in Idaho, it has over 91,000 parcels with an assessable value of over 11 billion dollars — the second highest net taxable value of all the counties in the state.

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The Solution: Thomson Reuters Aumentum

Kootenai County photograph

Kootenai County, Idaho

Realizing their old system could not keep up with the county’s increasing growth and State law mandates, the Assessor’s office, after a long search, selected and installed ProVal from Thomson Reuters. According to McDowell, ProVal’s selection was based on the system’s ability to provide many features the county’s old system did not, including a flexible valuation engine that would allow appraisers to use various approaches to determine market value.

10 years after the Assessor’s office had installed ProVal, the Treasurer’s office looked for a system that would provide assessment administration as well as tax billing, collection and administration. They chose Aumentum Tax from Thomson Reuters. According to Thomas, beyond cost, the major factors in the system’s selection were its functionality to maintain, bill, collect, and distribute taxes in a very simple, straightforward and user friendly manner.

In 2011, The County’s Recorder Office, under the direction of Pat Raffee, Chief Deputy Clerk, installed Aumentum Recorder. A system that provides a complete range of recording capabilities, including real estate and vitals and marriage. Since then, the Recorder, Treasurer and Assessor have worked closely together with Thomson Reuters to bring each product into compliance with the requirements of Idaho laws. According to McDowell, this process has led to a much more comprehensive and efficient system, which in turn provides better services to all of the county’s constituents.

Kootenai County has also deployed Aumentum egovernment which provides constituents with the ability to access property information and pay taxes via the Internet.

The Deployment: Transition and Implementation

For the Assessor’s, Treasurer’s and Recorder’s offices the process of conversion from an antiquated system to implementation of their new systems presented many hurdles. “The Thomson Reuters team worked with us from the beginning to understand our process flows and all of our ultimate needs,” said McDowell. “They asked a lot of questions and reached the point where they understood what we needed and how we needed it to work. Yet, they were always willing to listen to us if we had ideas on how to make it better.”

The Thomson Reuters team worked with us from the beginning to understand our process flows and all of our ultimate needs …

The challenges that Thomas and the Treasurer’s office faced during installation and implementation dealt with the question of how Aumentum Tax would meet the needs of the county while complying with the complex guidelines of Idaho tax statutes. “The issue of compliance was at the forefront of everything we needed to do,” said Thomas. “We worked closely with a team of Thomson Reuters analysts — with Aumentum Tax at the center of the process. From there, we gathered all the specifics of the Idaho tax statutes and the analysts developed several models that allowed us to see how the software would work under each scenario. That was beginning of a very good partnership with Thomson Reuters.”

The process of installation and deployment was a bit different for the Recorder’s office. According to Raffee, the challenges her office faced in the deployment of Aumentum Recorder were in some ways similar to those of her colleagues in the Assessor and Treasurer’s offices, but also somewhat different. “I came to this position as a member of a newly elected Clerk’s staff,” she said. “At that time, contracts for Aumentum Records had been signed — a yet to be installed system that the new administration knew nothing about.” According to Raffee, she was both concerned and skeptical, so she had meetings with McDowell, Thomas and staff of other departments, to learn the challenges they’d met during the previous system conversions. “I tried to ask every question that I could possibly think of regarding what potentially could go wrong,” she said. “In fact, I even asked Clifford Hayes, the new county Clerk, to call the ranking executive in charge of Aumentum and ask him what we might expect when the system went live.” As a result of all these efforts, the close scrutiny of the implementation process by her office and cooperation from the Aumentum team, Raffee said that “very little did go wrong — it all worked out well.”

The Benefits: Increased Accuracy, Productivity & Consistuent Satisfaction

Beyond the many benefits that ProVal has brought to the county’s assessing process, McDowell points to one feature to illustrate the overall value of the system. “With ProVal, once we capture assessment value data we can build uniform and reliable value sets,” he said. “This allows us to analyze properties both by type, by neighborhood and other various characteristics to determine what model adjustments are needed to provide the best value which reflect market conditions. We can consistently produce reliable evaluations, which are the basis for the property tax system within the county.”

We’re now conducting more appraisals on an annual basis with three fewer appraisers than we’ve had before.

McDowell also points to the increase in productivity. “Under State law, the county conducts re-appraisals for 20 percent of properties every year,” he said. “We’re now conducting more appraisals on an annual basis with three fewer appraisers than we’ve had before. With the old system, we were appraising between 8 and 12 parcels per day, now using our value sets process we can appraise up to 25 to 30 parcels a day.” That is a significant increase in output and, which according to McDowell, equates to a 7.5 percent annual savings to county tax payers.

On the Treasurer’s office side, Thomas said that the flexibility Aumentum has provided allows her office to have immediate access to information not readily available through the old system, helping them respond to constituent’s inquiries immediately. Her office has also experienced a reduction in staff expenses of 37 percent as a result of a decrease in manual and redundant tasks combined with an increase in accuracy and productivity. “Prior to the installation of Aumentum we had a full-time staff of 11, as well as two to three seasonal part-time staff,” said Thomas. “Today we are doing more work with a full-time staff that is now seven.”

Kootenai County map

Kootenai County

Kootenai County is a county located in the U.S. state of Idaho. The county was established in 1864, named after the Kootenai tribe. The entire county comprises the Couer d’Alene, Idaho Metropolitan Statistical Area. Learn More

Thomas points to one specific task to prove her point. “Before Aumentum, our staff would spend three weeks in the process of exporting and printing tax bills. We’ve now shortened that time by 66 percent, with the process taking only one week even though the number of tax bills increases at a rate of approximately 2 percent per year. In addition,” she said, “the collection, posting and deposit of tax payment timelines have also decreased by over one month, which in turn increases county revenues through interest accrual.”

The Recorder’s office is also benefiting from the features provided by Aumentum. “We have been able to reduce our staff from nine members to seven,” said Raffee. “That is mostly due to the system’s ability to e-record which reduces recording time by 50 percent compared to the time it takes to record documents brought to our office.” And according to Clements, the new system has been very useful. “It is much more intuitive and user-friendly, which makes it easier for our staff to navigate,” she said. “It also, has reduced our training time for the new staff. And we’re able to monitor what each staff member is actually doing during the course of the day, which we could not do with the previous system.”

We have been able to reduce our staff from nine members to seven. That’s mostly due to the system’s ability to e-record which reduces recording time by 50 percent …

Both the Assessor’s and Treasurer’s office are also very pleased with the benefits provided by Aumentum egovernment. According to McDowell the system has allowed the county to provide an excellent level of service to constituents. “We had 663 assessment review inquiries during the previous assessment period,” he said. “That number dropped to 385 for the last period, reflecting a 42 percent reduction in the numbers of folks coming into our office to inquire about their assessments. I attribute that to our constituent’s ability to look at those assessments online and understand how the values were produced.”

Thomas said that Aumentum egovernment provides a lot of information that Kootenai County’s constituents are looking for such as: description of property, name and owner’s address. “And they can also view and pay their taxes online,” she added. “All of that is available at no charge to the general public, while for ‘professional users’ such as title companies, banks, attorneys and others, we provide a monthly subscription service which helps Kootenai cover the cost of egovernment’s maintenance fees.”

The Recorder, Assessor and Tax offices are benefiting from the increase in accuracy as well as the time and budget saving role the integration of Aumentum Recorder, ProVal and Aumentum Tax is providing the County. “It’s an evolving system. And now with the addition of Aumentum Recorder we are looking forward to completing the circle,” said McDowell. “By working to integrate our databases and making them basically different segments of the same database we are in the process of eliminating a lot of the duplicated, redundant types of data entry throughout the organization, increasing our accuracy and efficiency. As we move forward, we can take full advantage of all of the efficiencies that come with the systems,” he added. “The integration has also led to greater levels of cooperation among all three county offices, which in turn has increased our ability to provide quality services to our constituents.”

Customer Insights

Thomson Reuters Aumentum is probably one of the most integral tools that I rely on. Without it I would not be able to do my job as efficiently or effectively serve our taxpayers.

Laurie Thomas
Treasurer, Kootenai County, Idaho, United States