September 17, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
Gloucester County, Va., is set to premier its in-house property reassessment tool this October, a project that began after the county dumped its reassessment contractor in 2005. Residents will receive more accurate assessments on their properties, thanks to the county's new GIS-based appraisal process, said Scott Varner, database administrator and developer for the Gloucester County Department of Information Technology/GIS.
"The feeling of most folks was the methodologies [the vendor] used to place values on properties had no justifiable rhyme or reason," explained Brenda Garton, administrator of Gloucester County.
County executives agreed with those citizens, especially after questioning the vendor about the values.
"When we asked them how they arrived at those figures, they really couldn't tell us," Varner said.
While many counties analyze square-footage and zoning data to determine a property's value, Gloucester County's tool adds other forms of GIS data, like water and sewer hookups, and waterfront location status.
Rather than starting from scratch, Varner used the contractor's assessment application as a foundation and then connected it to county servers with the various forms of GIS data he wanted to use.
Bringing the operation in-house was a bit more expensive than farming it to a contractor, but the tradeoff was worthwhile to Reese Milligan, Gloucester County assessor.
"By doing it in-house, you have people who are going to be in the community and more familiar on a continual basis with the market and the properties they're appraising," Milligan said, adding that he didn't have immediate access to the cost difference data.
The long-awaited reassessments will be available via an online search engine. The county still expects the inevitable challenges to the appraisals, which determine property taxes. The Gloucester County Assessor's Office hopes to handle most negotiations regarding assessments over the telephone, but the agency will have two staffers on-hand for in-person appointments.