Morrison County Council Examines New Assessment Software | Morrison County File
The Morrison County Council of Commissioners engaged in a lengthy discussion about possible new computer-assisted mass assessment (CAMA) software for the Land Services Department during its planning session on Tuesday.
Land Services Manager Amy Kowalzek, County Assessor Jean Popp and IT Manager Amy Middendorf presented the proposal for discussion. The software currently in use, Avenu, is almost 30 years old and at times does not interface well with the county’s Harris tax filing software.
“What this helps is that it creates a series of values for similar properties,” Kowalzek said. “It also provides quality control within the software with reports and modifications that we can make to look at everything at scale. “
It also serves as a vehicle for importing assessment data into the tax system for generating tax returns and the actual amounts someone has to pay.
The total cost of implementing the new software would be $ 167,212.50 paid over an initial five-year contract. Approximately $ 68,442.50 for data conversion and delivery would be due in 2022, the first year of the contract. This would be followed in 2023 with a price of $ 24,692.50 – for annual maintenance and support – before a fee of $ 24,692.50 plus an archive fee of $ 3,840 for years three through five, 2024. – 2026.
In 2012, the Minnesota Counties Computer Co-op (MCCC) entered into contract negotiations with Avenu for an updated version of the original software. Those who aimed for the delivery of this software in 2017.
The total for this was going to be $ 195,340, so $ 140,000 was allocated by the county in 2012 – and remains as such – in the Recorder Compliance Fund. A former county appraiser also transferred about $ 40,000 to the equipment fund to help pay for the upgrade.
“So we have about $ 180,000 in capital equipment and the compliance fund for this project,” Kowalzek said.
This contract collapsed because the company was unable to deliver the new product. This has forced every county that has Avenu at this time to research alternative CAMA software; although MCCC was able to negotiate extended support on existing software until 2023.
As Avenu is essentially no longer an actor, the MCCC has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to companies interested in providing CAMA services to member countries. The only viable option was with Vanguard, which was offered the contract. However, he declined to participate because he is interested in a contract with individual counties rather than a general contract with the MCCC.
“Actually, Morrison County’s CAMA option is Vanguard; that’s really what it is, ”Kowalzek said. “Because we are only looking for CAMA software only. They are the only supplier that has that, that really meets our needs.
Vanguard currently provides CAMA services in six states, including Minnesota. The Vision product, which the county is considering, has been supplied to counties in Minnesota since 1991. Kowalzek said there are currently 25 Minnesota customers served by Vanguard, 12 of whom also use a Harris tax system, such as Morrison County. would have.
“Vanguard is known to speak very well with tax software,” Kowalzek said. “This hasn’t always been the case with our Avenu software, and we had to tap into external IT sources when we had issues with transferring our data. “
She said having something more stable was of great importance when selecting a new CAMA supplier.
Another highlight, she said, is Vanguard’s easy-to-build sketching ability. She said the current system has a “fairly rudimentary” capability, which makes it difficult to do and makes the computer-aided sketch look like a building. The drawing ability within Vanguard is “leaps and bounds” and easy to use, she said.
It also imports well with the county GIS mapping server, Beacon.
“At the office, all of this parcel data is gathered in this tax software,” Kowalzek said. “If we have something scanned into Application Extender, it communicates with Application Extender and just pulls that document out with one click. Then it also communicates with our Beacon software. So when we want to see a parcel map or something like that, we don’t need to open these three programs. We use this through the Vanguard system.
Kowalzek said implementing Vanguard would also eliminate the need for staff to manually import Planning and Zoning authorization data into each plot that has activity. This too can be imported directly through Vanguard.
There would, however, be additional IT infrastructure requirements to be ready for the transition. Middendorf said a purchase of $ 3,600 would be expected for an SQL server.
“We have the funds for this,” Kowalzek said. “Because we have $ 180,000, we spend a maximum of $ 167,000, so we would have the financing in capital equipment and / or the compliance fund to cover that purchase.”
The ongoing annual expense for the SQL service would be $ 1,200, pending a Microsoft renewal agreement. It would be for 2024 – 2026, then Middendorf said the contract with Microsoft would be renewed in the future.
Beginning in the sixth year, it is estimated at $ 19,990 per year for the annual service with the archive service. This would be budgeted for in the land services budget. The current annual service charge with Avenu is $ 14,060.
“These are bare bones,” Kowalzek said. “There is no improvement, there is nothing. It’s really to make sure that it continues to exist and that they update if we have a change in the tax law.
Kowalzek plans to submit the contract for approval at the June 22 board meeting. The goal is to be ready for the final conversion and staff training in April 2022, after the release of appraisal statements in March.
Commissioner Randy Winscher asked if Vanguard was reluctant to enter into a contract with MCCC, like Avenu, because the rate would be lower. Popp said it wasn’t. Instead, this move was aimed at being able to offer customers a more individualized service.
“When MCCC does that, they try to keep everyone standardized in that box,” Popp said. “So let’s say we have something a little different from someone else, I want to enter that a little different. Without this contract, I have the capacity to do it. With this contract, I will be limited to what they have.
Popp said she was “very happy” with Vanguard. She found them to be the easiest group to work with and had a pleasant experience with the company during the initial discussion phase.
“The parts of that that give me a bit of heartburn are the fact that it’s almost like we’re in a default position because it’s the only one in five that basically made the cut. that actually works, “said Commissioner Greg Blaine.” But, I also trust the three of you as professionals in what you do. I don’t do what you do and I am not a tech person. I have to rely on you, so I’m glad it’s something you support and feel comfortable with.
Briefs of the Council of Commissioners:
In other matters Tuesday, the Morrison County Board of Commissioners:
• Discussed various ways that US Stimulus Package (ARP) money could be spent, when received. County Administrator Deb Gruber and Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski spoke about what was discussed regarding the ARP at a Minnesota counties district meeting on Monday.
“Every county has talked a lot about broadband,” Jelinski said.
Gruber added that many have discussed the timing and rules that may change or develop as the funding rolls out. Ultimately, there are still several unknowns surrounding this federal funding.
“I think there are a number of opportunities,” Gruber said. “We talked briefly about the internal versus the external, looking inward rather than outward. Some counties have taken a major outside approach to their CARES public dollars and made sure they are reinvesting in opportunities in a community. Some did not. Some seemed more internal when it came to COVID CARES money. Some, along with ARP, will do the same. I think the opportunities are there and vast to explore in terms of the ability to use these dollars for external and outward-looking initiatives; but also internal initiatives.
The next meeting of the Council of Commissioners will be on Tuesday, June 22 at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber of the Morrison County Government Center.