Assessor’s office at ‘critical impasse’

Database inefficient; accuracy in question

The Montezuma County Tax Assessor’s office is in a state of “critical impasse” because of an unmanageable and unreliable database system.

County information technology director Jim McClain broke the news to county commissioners on Monday, May 5, stating the current database system used by the assessor’s office was inefficient, counterintuitive and complicated. Specific problems with the Realware database system include inconsistent log-in issues for users and daily user interface glitches, he said.

“This has been an ongoing issue,” McClain said.

McClain explained the treasurer’s office uses a Tyler Technologies database system, but the assessor’s office uses a Realware database for calculating property taxes. He added the databases were not compatible, which forces county personnel to transfer sensitive data by hand.

“It’s become a real problem,” McClain said. “We don’t even know if we have accurate numbers.”

McClain said some data used to calculate property taxes was completely missing.

“It’s so hit and miss,” he added.

Quizzed by The Cortez Journal on Tuesday to list what types of information were missing, county tax assessor Scott Davis replied it was a tough question to answer.

“We correct information when we find something incorrect,” Davis said. “I regularly run queries to look for problems, but cannot say what is missing or incorrect until a problem is found.”

McClain recommended that the assessor’s database be updated to a Tyler Technology system. He said the new system, even if immediately approved, would not be available for use until October.

“We have to learn the new software,” Davis told commissioners. “It takes time.”

Davis supports the $153,000 software upgrade, stating his office was scheduled to re-evaluate property taxes next year. All properties are revalued during odd years.

County Administrator Melissa Brunner informed commissioners that the assessor’s office currently has $60,000 budgeted for legal fees regarding a Kinder Morgan tax dispute. She said those funds might become available to cover part of the upgrade cost this year, but additional funds would have to be budgeted to cover the remaining cost in next year’s budget.

Commissioners agreed to replace the database system, saying the county needs accurate data to avoid overcharging or undercharging property owners.

“It sounds like we’re between a rock and a hard spot,” said Commissioner Keenan Ertel.

“We have to be able to trust are records our accurate,” replied McClain. “Honestly, I don’t believe they are.”

“Let’s get it fixed right now,” added Commissioner Steve Chappel.

Asked if property owners had been overcharged or undercharged due to inaccurate data, Davis said Tuesday there would be properties that were incorrectly valued, causing an overcharge or undercharge.

“The over valued parcels are easy to find,” he said. “Our appeal process follows any change of value, and that is the property owners opportunity to bring this to our attention.”

According to McClain, approximately $37,000 was needed to start the upgrade process. Installation fees would be paid later, he said.

In other news, commissioners on Monday also amended the county’s fire ban ordinance, which now requires residents to notify dispatch officials prior to all controlled burns. The resolution also prohibits any open fire on a “Red Flag” day.

Commissioners also approved an annual resolution for Western Refining truck routes. The resolution permits the oil and gas company to operate excess weight and length vehicle combinations on County Roads BB, 9, 10 and 12 in exchange for immediate compensation for any road damage.