Tax & Accounting Blog

Earthquake Rattles IAAO Conference, But Does Not Shake Attendees

Aumentum, Blog, Business Practices, Marketing, Technology September 3, 2014

Last week I attended the 80th Annual IAAO (International Association of Assessing Officers) Conference in Sacramento, California. I arrived just after a 6.0 magnitude earthquake shook the area early on Sunday morning, August 24th.

Even though the quake literally moved the region, the attendees’ enthusiasm and the quality of the presentations and side discussions were not derailed.

The IAAO once again put on a great gathering – a premier conference to learn and network for professionals in the assessment industry.

I was honored to be selected as a presenter at this year’s conference on the ‘Tracking Trends in Local Property Markets’ panel.   I presented on government technology trends that Thomson Reuters and the National Association of Counties identified through original research by surveying U.S. government officials. We asked more than 800 government officials their views on future technology use recording, valuation, and tax administration operations. Decreased staff numbers, shrinking budgets and increased demands from taxpayers have officials seeking new and improved ways to service the public.

From the research, here is what is top of mind for U.S. Assessment officials instituting new technology solutions. First, is that technology must increase the accuracy of property assessments.  Second top of mind, they want to ease the maintenance and management of the records they are charged with up-keeping. Thirdly, they demand better and more reliable data and improvements in technology so they can achieve this goal.   Lastly, they need their staff to be more efficient and productive – because they are doing more work and attempting to deliver higher levels of results with less staff members than were employed five years ago.

Of course, these considerations are all tied together. If the data are improved and more reliable, managing this information becomes easier and ultimately assessments precision improves. And if assessments are more accurate – staff is bound to be more productive and able to focus more time on other high priority projects. And ultimately, this enhances the quality of the services these officials are able to provide to their constituents.

I was especially pleased to share the stage with three of our valued Thomson Reuters customers:
•    Rich Houser, Chief Deputy Assessor – Kootenai County, ID
•    Ronald Agnor, Asst. Real Estate Assessor – City of Virginia Beach, VA
•    Conrad Comeaux, Assessor – Lafayette Parish, LA

While I had discussed survey findings from hundreds of officials across the U.S., words really ring truer when you hear seasoned officials tell their own stories. These three gentleman each shared their experiences from their jurisdictions’ unique geographies; the goals they are working to achieve in their offices; and the challenges they are facing when using, and adapting, technology. Collectively on stage, excluding myself, this three have more than 80 years of experience.

Rich Houser from Kootenai County, Idaho discussed how the integration between the Clerk, Assessor and Treasurer offices has streamlined processes, eliminated redundancies in information, and reduced human errors in data collection. The County’s eGovernment solution, importantly, provides that information bridge to the public. Technology improvements have resulted in saving staff time in each office and have allowed the Assessor’s office to feel more confident about the data they are using to assess properties across Kootenai County.

Representing the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Ron Agnor described how the City is utilizing Assessment Administration software to overcome the challenges in managing the multiple types of taxing districts, including numerous exemptions, and adapting to ever constant legislative variances within the property tax law. Juggling these complexities is a daily part of Ron Agnor’s job.

He expressed the advantages that utilizing technology has provided in producing their annual Land Book (a property values publication for the City) as well as in predicting the possible revenues for the coming years when submitting the Assessor’s five-year plan to the City Board. “We got it done in the past, but I’m not certain now how it did get done. With a push of a button, we can now produce the Land Book. It’s that easy,” he enthusiastically related to the audience.

The ever colorful Conrad Comeaux from Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, came armed with duck calls (his shout out to Louisiana’s Duck Dynasty) and examples of geospatial technologies used to more accurately assess properties. His examples included hand-held laser measurement devices for field work, Pictometry’s oblique imagery for making desktop appraisal more accurately than ever before, and Apex sketch applications that assist in more accurate square footage measurement. All of these geospatial applications are integrated, either as tools or as imported data, within their Thomson Reuters CAMA (computer assisted mass appraisal) system.

Working day in and day out across our Teams at Thomson Reuters, it always brings me great satisfaction to hear from our customers of their successes in using our technology.