Property Assessment Mapping Tool Provides Wealth of County Data

A new mapping tool implemented in King County, Washington has enabled county assessors, residents, businesses and constituency groups to gain a better understanding of property assessment data and trends in the housing market.

As reported by NACo County News,

“We had a growing demand, es­pecially when the economy turned, folks would come to our office and say they wanted information about how their neighborhood was chang­ing,” said Assessor Lloyd Hara.

And serving them wasn’t as easy as just pulling up the data they wanted.

“They’d have to call us to get a complete report, and that would take about two hours to a week, depending on the complexity of the issue,” said his community outreach manager, Phillip Sit.

A seven-month development effort compiled assessment infor­mation, along with Census data, and synthesized that data into a comprehensive mapping tool, which can be used to extract data based on user-drawn boundaries.

“You can draw the shape and it pulls the data from a multitude of census tracts and does it in real time,” Sit said.

The information is useful for resi­dents, the private sector, nonprofits and even the county government. Loaded onto tablet computer, Lo­calScape can go into the field with the assessor’s office staff.

“That’s been a real advantage for our appraisers because we’re under tight budget constraints and adding another full-time employee to do data retrieval wouldn’t be possible,” Hara said.

Interested constituencies no longer need to request data from the assessment office. They can go right to the website, enter their search parameters, and access the data.

Over three years, the program will cost $230,000 for both the development and operating budget.
In Maryland, the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) performs property assessments, not the county governments. Once assessments are complete, the county finance offices receive data files from SDAT and issues tax billings for both the state and local property tax.
In 2014, a Property Assessment Workgroup was established to examine issues related to the assessment process for real and personal property, tax credits, and tax exemptions. Recommendations for each of these areas predominantly focus on the use of new technologies to improve the assessment process and business process re-engineering to create greater operational efficiencies.  Recommendations also focus on developing better partnerships with local jurisdictions for more effective data sharing and improving communication between SDAT, local assessment offices and local governments.