The Asotin County Assessor’s Office is currently staffed by the Assessor and three full-time employees, having recently lost a half-time position subsequent to the election of Chris Wood as Asotin County Assessor.
Asotin County is on a four-year assessment cycle with 25% of all real estate property parcels inspected and revalued each calendar year. There are 13,727 parcels in the revaluation cycle per Department of Revenue statistics and local county records.
The reduction in staff, and the legislative mandate to revalue all properties on an annual basis beginning in 2014 necessitated redistribution of duties within the Assessor’s Office.
The elected Assessor is responsible for all duties inherent to the office such as DOR reports, calculating and compiling statistical information, calculation of tax levies, and management of the office. It was necessary that the Assessor also retain responsibility for Commercial and Land Valuation until future training allows for the transfer of some of these duties to other appraisal staff.
The Chief Deputy’s primary duties included management of the Farm and Timber Properties, Current Use, Cartography, Data Maintenance and management of the office when the Assessor is absent. This position has recently been state accredited and the Chief Deputy now assists the Residential Appraiser in the appraisal of residential properties and new construction. The Chief Deputy is also in the process of learning Commercial and Land Valuation processes.
The Residential Appraiser is primarily assigned to Residential Appraisal, New Construction Appraisal, Maintenance of the Public Website, and maintenance of the databases for Land, Commercial, and Farm Sales. This Sales database is utilized by the public, title companies, banks, public appraisers and realtors.
The fourth position in the office performs data entry and files maintenance for all Residential Properties and is solely responsible for the Senior Exemption Program and the Business Personal Property Program.
All positions share on-site customer-service responsibilities and responsibility for answering phones and correspondence as needed.
With the redistribution of duties and some technical modifications to our computer programs (“ATS”), the office has partially adjusted to the reduction in staff. For the first time in many years our revaluation postings will balance, which is affirms the accuracy of our revaluation records and levy calculations. Additionally, we may complete our Revaluation a month earlier than in 2009, although the State suggests a target completion date in May. This deadline is currently still outside our capabilities.
The statutory mandate to convert to annual revaluation poses a very great challenge. Without significant technological enhancements, we will not be able to meet the future requirements. Many counties have purchased software “packages” designed for annual revaluation and ‘mass appraisal’. Our research places the cost of these programs between $350,000 and $450,000 (or higher) for initial costs plus $40,000 to $70,000 annual maintenance fees.
Given Asotin County’s current and projected financial problems, the purchase of a software package solution is clearly impractical. In light of our recent successes with innovations and improvements to our existing Assessor’s software system, we suggest enhancing our existing system as the practical and affordable alternative.
The mandate to convert to annual poses another challenge as well. The property revaluation that precedes annual conversion requires a high degree of accuracy to establish a foundation for future revaluation cycles. After conversion to annual revaluation, we will only have an opportunity to physically inspect properties every six years, although the inspection will be complete and thorough. This accuracy will necessitate a physical inspection of the majority of properties, especially those with structural improvements. The four year conversion cycle begins in 2011. The Assessors office with current staffing is able to complete our revaluation by early to late October. The established state target is May.
In order to complete the higher level of assessment for properties in the four years preceding conversion, we may also require the services of contract appraisers for a number of months each year of the conversion cycle.
Asotin County owns a proprietary computer system utilized by the Assessor, Treasurer, Building and Planning, Public Works, City of Clarkston and other semi-public and private agencies such as the Public Utility District, banks and title companies. This system contains property information including ownership, legal descriptions, tax history, deed history, sales data and transaction history etc.
The Assessor’s budget is extremely limited. From 2008 to 2009 the office went from five to four full time staff due to County Budget constraints. The balance of the budget is limited to mailing, training & supplies.