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Software streamlines property tax

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If all goes according to plan, most Bartholomew County taxpayers will not notice that the county treasurer and auditor have purchased new software for managing property taxes. But for those who need help, it should be quicker and simpler for the county to access these records and change records as needed.

The software, Property Valuation Data, was purchased last year from Government Utilities Technology Service of Thorntown for $122,912 from the county’s General Fund. The Internet-based software was installed last month and county workers have been training on its use since then.

The county’s previous tax-billing software had been in use for more than 30 years, said Barb Hackman, the county auditor. Hackman said the new system reduces the annual software maintenance contract from $48,000 a year to about $28,900.

Hackman said the new software also greatly improves the county’s ability to produce custom reports.

“We have a lot of public inquiries wanting information,” Hackman said. “There is a lot of inquiries that we just weren’t able to get on our previous system.”

Chris West, real estate and tax billing administrator in the auditor’s office, said the previous software only allowed certain, pre-set searches through the county’s data to compile reports. But the new software allows for specialized searches for information that might be needed by the public or other government officials.

It will also allow county taxpayers who need to make changes to their deductions or other data to do so more easily, West said. Rather than having to fill out a form by hand and then have that input in the computer, West said he can now make the changes and print out the completed form for the taxpayer’s signature — a large time savings, he said.

“When we send out tax bills, you have taxpayers up here in lines to check on their deductions and file their deductions,” West said.

And where the old system required an hours-long, overnight process to compile data, the new system does that work in the background continuously, West said.

Treasurer Pia O’Connor said the efficiencies in the new software have allowed her to reduce her office staff from five employees to four.

“Because we will have process improvements through the software, it made me realize we can reduce staff,” O’Connor said.

The software will allow her office to work more easily with the county’s large taxpayers, as she will be able to combine tax bills for a single taxpayer with multiple properties. Under the previous software, any tax bill larger than six digits, such as the bill for Cummins Inc., had to have the millions written in by hand because the software would truncate the number.

“We will definitely be able to serve some of those customers much better than we have in the past,” O’Connor said.

The new system also will allow notices and other information to be sent by email, O’Connor said. One county taxpayer owns more than 100 parcels and for the first time the county will be able to e-mail the tax bill information in a spreadsheet, she said.

O’Connor said she does not expect any problems when the county sends out tax bills next month, but if anyone notices a problem they should contact her office or the auditor’s. While the system should be seamless, there are always obstacles working with new software, she said.

County employees are still undergoing training, Hackman and O’Connor said. As each annual process of their jobs comes up, the vendor is bringing in staff to do training, so the county employees can learn hands-on, they said.

“We still have two months before we hit our crazy-busy time,” O’Connor said. “We have time to learn and get up to speed, which is great. But if our crunch-time happened tomorrow, it might not be pretty. We have a lot of work to do in the next two months to get ready.”

Information: County auditor’s office, 379-1510; county treasurer’s office 379-1530

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