3 Point Action Plan

TAXPAYER CARE AND SUPPORT 


Under my leadership, I want to change your experience at the Rockford Township Assessors Office.


You deserve the best possible level of service, the most detailed attention, and to have your questions, comments, and concerns addressed. After all, you pay the staff, and the Assessor, who are all responsible for answering the phone, helping you at the counter, and responding to your emails. If you are not satisfied or feel as though you have been wronged, I will be your advocate.

Want to protest your assessment?  We can help!  Need assistance understanding the process?  We’ll take the time to explain it to you.  Lost on where to begin?  We can guide you.

So many in our region have questions and concerns about the process of assessing for taxation. I want to open the dialog and go out into the community to start to educate and assist you no matter the level of your understanding about the process.  I will bridge the gap between being in the dark and seeing the light.

In order to do that, the definition of service and care needs rewriting. My version will include, but not limited to:

1. Patience: When you are confused and frustrated, it will be policy that we take our time with you to best understand your problem and what you need from us.

2. Attentiveness: Sometimes you will not know where to begin. The Assessor staff will be trained to listen to what you mean, not necessarily only what you say.  It is more important you receive competent answers than being rushed out the door.

3.  Clear Communication Skills: Property tax jargon can be lost in translation.  If the explanation is confusing, the office isn't doing their part to communicate clearly.  In principle, if someone cannot explain something clearly, they likely do not fully understand themselves. 

4. Knowledge of the Process: The process by which real estate is valued is spelled out in the Property Tax Code. If the Code is not applied, the processed is polluted, which makes it ambiguous to explain.  No matter who you talk to at the office, should be able to give the same answer as anyone else on staff.

5. Ability to use positive tone: How staff responds to you will determine how you react. You should not be given reason to feel as though the office is abrupt, impersonal, nor condescending. The attitude of the staff can make or break your experience. There is no reason for you to be unsatisfied because of the tone staff use when speaking to you.

6. A calming presence: No matter your frustration, level of anger, or need to vent, you deserve to speak to someone who is able to keep their cool, act well under pressure, and remain stable even under the most tense pressure.  The Assessor’s office should never give you reason to hang up on them or give up on the process.

7. Willingness to learn: No place of employment nor employer is perfect. Learning is a way to improve what one does and how well he does it. It evokes that the office cares about what is right, willing to work at it until it is right, and ultimately, finding a way to keep it right, time after time.

MODERNIZE PRACTICES 

Want to see what office life was like in the 1950’s?  Stop by your Rockford Township Assessor’s Office for a visit!  OK, it’s not THAT bad, but its close. The office in 2017 operates much like the office of the 1950’s.

Everything starts with PAPER.  Despite more and more expensive servers, computer hardware, and system software, the Rockford Township Assessor’s Office of TODAY relies almost wholly on paper. OVER 5 DOZEN CASES OF IT PER YEAR!  It gets printed, reprinted, jotted notes on, passed from inbox to inbox around the office, and eventually filed, sometimes scanned.  We can do better! 

I want to utilize the digital document management system that was purchased in 2007 and eliminate the paper chase! Currently, select paper documents are already loaded digitally and the office has a very expensive operating system to assist with that task.  All we need is someone with the knowledge and understanding to make the change and move to the 21st century. Doing so will save a lot of labor hours and provide serious savings and accessibility to taxpayers. 

With all this digital data, I want to end the “fight” over information. I believe property owners should be able to see every piece of information that the Rockford Township Assessors Office has on a parcel. If it’s all digital why not?  It’s your information!

I envision a platform where information is readily available at your fingertips whether on a desktop PC, tablet, or smart phone. How your property is assessed shouldn’t be a secret and you should have all the information that our staff has on the property. For any parcel in the township, you should be able to read an itemized statement of valuation so that you can compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. 

Need comparable properties for your property tax appeal? We’ll provide those electronically! In an easy to use format. Sound counter-productive? It isn’t. If the Illinois Property Tax Code is applied FAIRLY and UNIFORMLY within Rockford Township, an appeal isn’t an insult and it shouldn’t mean a WAR between the taxpayer and the Assessor.  

I do not believe the Assessor has the right to cherry pick what information you can access online. I do not believe information should be withheld.  

 

Since 2007, the Rockford Township Assessor's Office has had the technology to go both paperless and 100% digital. 

Digital transformation should be embraced. It means immediate access anywhere, anytime. Efficiency is gained by streamlining workflow, record retention, and aids in regulatory compliance with audit trails and archiving. Going digital will automate processes, serve as a checklist, and act as validator to flag questionable changes, deletions, or additions tied to valuation.

 

This will come at minimal extra cost to the taxpayer. The digital infrastructure required to modernize the office has been in-house since 2007 and added to in 2011.  It's time to use it.

FAIR AND UNIFORM VALUATION

The Illinois statutory method of mass appraisal is not applied to every piece of real estate in the Township. Likewise, not all real estate is valued using a computer system. Many parcels of real estate are valued without a set formula.

THE GOOD NEWS

One to three, and some 4+ family dwellings are valued based on the statutory principle of mass appraisal. 

THE BAD EWS 

ALL commercial buildings and ALL industrial buildings are NOT based on the statutory principle of mass appraisal. This means there is no fair, no equal, nor uniform commercial and industrial valuation. 


I want to end what I call “cowboy assessing” in Rockford Township.  Specifically I want to apply a standardized formula based on the Illinois Property Tax Code to all properties of the same type.  I’m not promising anyone that their assessments will go down, or that they will go up.  Only that the office shouldn’t be picking winners and losers and that the Office of the Assessor should be assessing fairly and accurately according to the Illinois Property Tax Code.

 

When this is done, an appeal is not a bad thing! It doesn’t mean the Township Assessor did you wrong or that you are trying to cheat the government out of paying your fair share.  It only means that the taxpayer views their valuation differently than the assessor’s office.  That’s OK! 

I want the taxpayer to be able to SEE the information the Assessor's Office has on the property, UNDERSTAND the formula used to value the property, and be CONFIDENT that the process is above board and FAIR. We may not AGREE on the value but the process will be open and transparent!

MASS APPRAISAL
The beautiful part of the Illinois Property Tax Code is mass appraisal. Today, many Assessors employ a technique called Computer- Assisted Mass Appraisal or "CAMA" for short.  BUT, the CAMA system is only as good as the Assessor who maintains it.  


In the case of Rockford Township, commercial and industrial property is NOT valued using a CAMA system, aka a computer system. There is no uniform formula for valuation. Each parcel is valued using different data and no parcel is valued the same as another. 


The only parcels that are mass appraised using a CAMA system are land, single family homes, two family or duplex homes, and three family homes or triplexes. That’s a problem. That’s wrong. 


Mass appraisal levels the playing field.  It means fair treatment. It favors no one. It isn't intimated by bullying. It is objective. Mass appraisal is the best tool to protect the taxpayer from unethical valuation practices. Mass appraisal removes the temptation to alter individual values because of an owner's name, income potential, or the Assessor's subjective personal opinion of highest and best use. Mass appraisal eliminates the subjectivity and forces valuation to be based solely on the real estate, which is the way the code is written.