Leading Edge of the Assessment Industry

Durham, NC – September 18, 2013. Posted by Shelley Hare.

INTRO: Last month, Carteret County became the first and only county in NC to receive IAAO’s Certificate of Excellence in Assessment Administration. This certification is only awarded to those taxing jurisdictions willing to undertake a year-long process of challenging themselves to meet and exceed the high standards and best practices as defined by IAAO – and Carteret County was up to that task.

Farragut reached out to Carteret’s Tax Administrator Carl Tilghman to learn what was gained through their participation and their overall experience with the program.

Carl has served as the Tax Admin in Carteret County for over ten years. He enjoys getting to know everyone in the county, being able to contact and associate with taxpayers, and helping citizens through any property tax issues they may have.

Reaching for Excellence

Applying for the IAAO Certificate of Excellence means entering a rigorous program where you turn an inward eye towards your department and its procedures, remain open to feedback, and identify areas for growth and advancement – all in addition to your normal workload.

An undertaking like this can be especially difficult for smaller tax departments like Carteret County, which has only eight people in the assessment department.

Why take on this challenge?

After talking with Carl, it was clear that this program was something he felt would be worthwhile to pursue. “This whole process was a great learning and training tool. We are very much pleased, glad we were able to do it, and will encourage other counties to seek this as well.”

“It gave us the opportunity to share knowledge and existing practices with each other and discover and expand on new ways of doing things,” Carl explained.

What’s the secret?

There is no secret – but automation is the key.

“What helps us be more efficient is the automation of our processes allowing us to be more productive and accurate, while saving the county money.”

“One of the things we initiated here is the application of aerial photography, which allows us to review properties right from our desk rather than having to go out to the field to collect images,” said Carl.

“Also, we are a community which will from time to time suffer the impact of hurricanes and have begun using portable tablets in the field to help create property reviews and impact assessment reports ,” Carl told us. Each of the appraisers on staff in Carteret County’s tax office has access to a tablet for field assessments. Each tablet contains a program called FITS (Field Inspection Tracking System), designed to deliver collected data straight to their office system.

“We can fairly quickly assess damages by entering details on our portable tablets that connect back and immediately report the impact of a storm on real estate values. Once a week the documented changes are updated in our main system – eliminating reentry tasks of multiple personnel,” he continued.

Using Technology

“We are using technology to help make everything more efficient and reliable. We did much with our GIS system and getting our parcel cards online so that the public has access to the data concerning their property,” Carl informed us.

“This was a big step to get that available and has notably decreased the number of telephone calls received, especially from real estate agencies and outside appraisers. We use to have to print out each parcel card and fax over the information requested. Now the information is online for anyone to be able to see,” he said.

Electronic storage is another ongoing project the Carteret County office has implemented. “Getting everything scanned in and electronically stored saves a lot of paper, boxes, and storage space,” explained Carl.

Building teamwork

“I’ve been fortunate enough to hire the right people and I think this award is to their credit. The whole department became involved to help with the research and analysis of our procedures, which allowed us to learn our own system even better. Even those who were not directly involved with the project pitched in to take on more work for those that were,” shared Carl.

Earning this achievement has gained international recognition for the entire Carteret County taxing jurisdiction. “I told our team that they have the bragging rights and can exercise those bragging rights at any opportunity,” he laughed.

Any advice?

“We found this process beneficial for both the education and training that it gives to the staff. I don’t think our county is any different; we all have the same capabilities. I would encourage other counties to take a look at the application and it will result in well earned recognition if they are successful with it,” expressed Carl.

Overall, the process of self- evaluation is an ongoing commitment to excellence, challenging standards to develop practices that go beyond normal expectations and energizing morale among staff to build a highly efficient team worthy of being called leaders in the assessment industry.