Originally created 05/02/00

Defends assessor's office over data

As I read about computer problems facing Augusta-Richmond County, I see blame is being directed to the Tax Assessor's Office for not having correct data. Since I was chief appraiser during this time, I feel I must tell my side of the story and defend the assessor's office.

In 1997, I saw a need to obtain a better computer system for the office. The staff and I visited counties that used the GAP System, which is supported by the State Revenue Department. They install and maintain the system for only $500 per year.

It was a simple system that met all the state's requirements. Although it was not the Cadillac of computer systems, we felt it would do the job. But I was told if we went with such an "inferior system" that we would not get any support. So the decision was dropped. The county now has the GAP System.

In early 1998 we again searched for a new system and had two to choose from: CLT Systems out of Atlanta and CPS Systems out of Dallas. My choice was CLT, but again I was pressured to go with CPS. ...

It was the tax commissioner who made the decision to break ties with the tax assessor's office in 1998 and bought a computer system that would not interface with the assessor's records. This resulted in converting information from the tax assessor's system to the tax commissioner's system.

Due to lack of expertise in the information technology department, the data never was converted correctly, resulting in bad information in the tax commissioner's system, not the tax assessor's records.

During the last of 1998 and all of 1999 there were red flags everywhere saying the CPS System was not working ... I brought this to the attention of City Administrator Randy Oliver, Technology Manager Clifford Rushton and the Board of Tax Assessors on several occasions, without any response.

The problem was not the assessor's office records, but the lack of personnel who could correctly convert the data to the tax commissioners system and a lack of support from upper level of management. It is ridiculous to blame the assessor's office for not being able to collect taxes. There was enough information there, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to determine the amount of taxes and who owed them ...

Harrison Sears, Hephzibah


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